Biden joined the auto workers' strike in Michigan: Trump accused him of hypocrisy
US President Joe Biden joined a picket along with members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union in Michigan on September 26, holding a megaphone and calling on workers to stay in line, reports Yahoo.
The UAW began a strike on September 15 to improve working conditions at Ford, General Motors and Chrysler Stellantis plants in 20 states. Fewer than 20 UAW members out of nearly 000 members are on strike.
The president urged workers to "fight," saying they deserved "significant" pay increases and other benefits as the strike entered its 12th day.
“The fact is, you guys, the UAW, saved the auto industry back in 2008 and before,” the president said in a brief speech outside a General Motors distribution center near Detroit. “They made a lot of sacrifices.” But now the company is doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing very well too.”
Biden shook hands with the picketers and hugged a woman who appeared to be wiping tears from her eyes.
"You deserve what you've earned, and you've earned a lot more than what you're being paid now," he said.
It is an unusual step for a sitting president to intervene so prominently on behalf of striking workers. This is unprecedented in modern presidential history.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre insists the administration has "no intention of negotiating" and would not say whether the White House supports the UAW workers' current proposal. The Biden administration said it would send acting Labor Department chief Julie Su and top White House adviser Gene Sperling to help with the negotiations. But last week the administration decided to keep them both in Washington. Su and Sperling "have been in constant contact with all parties over the past few weeks," Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre said the president's presence should send a message that "we stand with auto workers."
“To be clear, the president is standing by them to make sure they get paid fairly,” Jean-Pierre said at a Sept. 25 press briefing.
The UAW demanded, among other things, a 36% wage increase, annual cost of living adjustments, pensions and a four-day work week. The parties still cannot come to an agreement.
Biden, who describes himself as the most pro-union president, said last week that companies have made “significant offers” but must do more. The president said workers deserve “a fair share of the benefits they help create.”
Last week, Biden announced he would join the vigil, while Trump previously announced he would visit Detroit on Sept. 27 and skip the Republican presidential debate in California. Trump accused Biden of only visiting the state because Trump said he would.
“Skinny Joe should be ashamed to show his face to these hardworking Americans who he is stabbing in the back,” Trump said on September 26. – For Biden, it doesn’t matter what hourly wage they get. In three years, there will be no auto jobs because they will be taken over by workers from China and other countries.”
On his social media site, Truth Social, Trump said he instigated Biden's visit.
Biden was invited to visit UAW members by the group's president, Sean Fein, who has sometimes criticized Trump, reports with the BBC.
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In his Truth Social post, Trump, who was not invited by the UAW, vowed that auto workers won't win unless they support him and unless he wins the election.
Ahead of the visit, however, some workers expressed less enthusiasm for Biden and Trump's visits to the state.
"We'd prefer none of them show up," one worker told the BBC. “We don’t want to divide people, and if you bring that into politics it will cause controversy.”
At the Michigan strike, news of the visits was met with sighs and "eye rolls," according to Billy Rowe, 61, one of a half-dozen workers huddled in the rain and holding picket signs outside a Ford plant near Detroit. Workers regularly received cheers and encouragement from passing cars and trucks.
Rowe, who worked at Ford for 27 years, said he views the situation as a dispute between workers and companies.
Another Ford employee, Frankie Worley, said "politics should not be involved" in the matter.
“They come here and take pictures and say they support us, but do they really?” said Worley, who worked for the company for 28 years, including 20 years on the assembly line. “This intervention is only aimed at showing off in front of us and saying that they are helping us.” Just stay away."
The strike, he added, is his first. He said part of what motivated him to come was the fact that his salary had increased by just $4 from $28 an hour 25 years ago to $32 today.
“It’s hard to make a living now,” he said.
Battle for votes
Workers, such as UAW members, form a vital voting bloc for presidential candidates.
The battle for those votes in Michigan promises to be tight. Democrats narrowly won the state in the 2020 presidential election after losing there in 2016.
Meanwhile, the UAW endorsed Biden in 2020 but has yet to name a preferred candidate for the 2024 election, saying the union's support must be "earned."
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While the UAW has long been an ally of the Democratic Party, Worley said many of its members are upset about issues such as inflation and illegal border crossings, which are weakening Biden's support among workers.
Biden's visit to the vigil also comes as his administration pushes to increase U.S. electric vehicle (EV) production, a cause for concern among union members. They are concerned that electric vehicles require fewer workers to produce and can be produced in non-union factories with much lower wages.
Trump said the administration's "draconian" use of electric vehicles will "destroy" the US auto industry.
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