DETROIT (NewsNation) — In former President Donald Trump’s planned trip to meet with striking auto workers in Michigan, he may be able to inflict some damage on President Joe Biden’s self-proclaimed staunch support for unions.
The former president announced he plans to travel to Michigan next week as striking United Auto Workers (UAW) remain firm in their demands from the Big Three automakers.
The expected trip, however, is being denounced by UAW leader Shawn Fain.
“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said in a statement. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
Union leaders say Trump’s record in the White House speaks for itself. Union leaders have said his first term was far from worker-friendly, citing unfavorable rulings from the nation’s top labor board and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as unfulfilled promises of automotive jobs.
In 2017, the Trump-era board reversed a decision holding employers responsible for labor violations by subcontractors or franchisees. In 2019, the board gave a boost to companies that use contract labor, such as Lyft and Uber, by emphasizing “entrepreneurial opportunity” in determining a worker’s employment status, making organizing harder.
The United Auto Workers union has withheld an endorsement in the 2024 presidential race.
Republicans have long tried to position themselves as being anti-union while remaining pro-worker. The party has branded itself as being for “the working class” while attacking organized labor, which has supported the Democratic Party for decades.
Trump has used a similar tactic in an effort to separate workers from a UAW leadership that endorsed Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 and that has attacked Trump since. In a recent campaign video addressed to autoworkers, Trump encouraged them not to pay union dues and claimed union leaders have “got some deals going for themselves.” Trump also claimed he would raise their wages and protect their jobs.
In Washington, the Biden administration reversed a plan to send acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit this week to meet with both sides, according to a White House official. Last week, President Joe Biden publicly backed the UAW and said the officials could play a positive role.
The White House now believes that since negotiations are taking place, “it is most productive for Sperling and Su to continue their discussions from Washington and allow talks to move forward,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private plans.
Fain had discounted the need for help from Washington, saying “This battle is not about the president,” and some Democrats opposed the White House involvement.
“I do not believe that the president himself should intervene as he did in the railroad strike in these talks. He should not be at that table,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, whose congressional district includes part of southeast Michigan.
The UAW is stepping up pressure on the Big Three by threatening to expand its strike unless it sees major progress in contract negotiations by Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.