President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some Democratic lawmakers and union leaders to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the three major automakers in the country. The UAW has been on strike since September 15, demanding higher wages, better benefits, and more job security from General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. The strike has affected nearly 150,000 workers in Michigan and other states.
Some Democrats in Michigan, where the auto industry is a key economic sector and a political battleground, have expressed concern that Biden’s likely rival in the 2023 election, former president Donald Trump, might try to woo union voters by visiting a picket line. Trump has announced that he will hold a rally in Detroit on September 23, and has criticized Biden for not supporting the UAW workers.
Several Democratic politicians, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Representative Rashida Tlaib, have visited the strikers and expressed their solidarity. Whitmer posted a photo of herself wearing a red UAW jacket and meeting with union members on Twitter. She said, “We’re at our strongest when we’re working together – as Team Michigan – to create a brighter future where everyone is able to thrive. Michigan was built by working people and we stand together in the fight for good-paying jobs.”
Biden calls for fair compensation for workers
Biden has not yet visited a picket line, but he has issued a statement supporting the UAW’s right to strike and calling on the automakers to improve their wage proposals. He said, “I applaud the UAW’s targeted strike against Detroit’s Big Three manufacturers. These workers deserve fair compensation for their hard work — they deserve to share in the profits that their labor helped create.”
Biden’s aides have said that he has already shown his commitment to labor through his executive orders and legislation aimed at boosting worker rights and outcomes. They have also pointed out that Biden has proposed a $2 trillion plan to invest in clean energy and electric vehicles, which would create millions of jobs and help the auto industry transition to a greener future.
However, some analysts have noted that Biden’s goals of tackling climate change and supporting unions have collided in Michigan, where the UAW workers are resisting some of the changes that the automakers are pushing for, such as shifting production to Mexico or outsourcing parts to non-union suppliers. The UAW has also expressed skepticism about the shift to electric vehicles, which require fewer workers and parts than traditional vehicles.
UAW hopes for presidential visit
The UAW leadership has communicated to the White House that a presidential visit would be welcomed by the striking workers, although it has not sent a formal invitation. A UAW official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Biden’s presence would send a strong message of solidarity and encouragement to the workers.
Tlaib, who represents parts of Detroit and nearby suburbs, said that she hoped Biden would not only join the picket line, but also sit down with some of the workers and listen to their concerns. She said, “Of course, the president coming would be extremely important. But people want someone who’s advocating for them and demanding a form of economic justice for them and their families — to come in solidarity.”
The strike is expected to continue until the UAW reaches a tentative agreement with each of the automakers, which would then have to be ratified by the workers. The last time the UAW went on strike against all three automakers was in 1976.