Joe Biden has proclaimed himself the most pro-union president in United States history. This Tuesday he showed it in an extraordinary act: he participated for a quarter of an hour in the pickets of the United Auto Workers union (UAW) strike against the Big Three in Detroit: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (which includes Chrysler). Megaphone in hand, standing on wooden pallets and wearing a union cap, he showed his support for the demands of the strikers: “Stay strong. You deserve a big raise and other benefits,” he said. “Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class built this country, and the unions built the middle class,” he added, repeating a slogan he often uses.
The president acknowledged the sacrifices made by workers when companies were in crisis, adding: “Now they are doing well. And guess what: you have to do very well too.” Greeted by Biden met the members of the picket and after chatting with them for a while he headed to San Francisco, where there was another event on Tuesday.
“Without agreement there are no wheels! “No charge, no part!” the workers chanted the arrival of the president. “This is a historic moment: the first time a sitting president of the United States has joined the picket lines,” said UAW President Shawn Fain, the Chrysler electrician-turned-union leader who made the public call. to Biden to join the protest. “Thank you, Mr. President, for coming to stand with us in our defining moment for a generation,” said Fain, who declared his war against “corporate greed.” “We do the heavy lifting. “We do the real work,” he added.
On the twelfth day of the strike, Biden visited pickets at a General Motors distribution center in Wayne County (Michigan), outside Detroit. As a candidate in the 2020 presidential primary, Biden has joined the picket lines of casino workers in Las Vegas and motor workers in Kansas City, but there is no precedent for a sitting president doing the same. appearance
With his move, he also moved ahead of former President Donald Trump, who planned a rally with unionized workers in Michigan this Wednesday, in conjunction with the second Republican primary debate, scheduled for that day in Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley ( California. ). Michigan is one of the top states for the 2024 presidential election.
The president was welcomed at the foot of the stairs of Air Force One by Fain, the lieutenant governor of Michigan, Garlin Gilchrist, and three congressmen. A large caravan with a security deployment that usually accompanies the president later made its way to the chosen center, which the White House had not previously revealed.
The UAW was the most powerful and influential union in the United States throughout its 88-year history, but it fell into a period of decay and corruption that saw two of its presidents imprisoned. Fain became the first union president to be directly elected by its members in March. Despite Biden’s support for their demands, the UAW, unlike other unions, has yet to seek support for Biden in the 2024 election.
Unions are demanding a new collective agreement with strong wage increases that will make up for lost purchasing power since the financial crisis, in addition to eliminating or changing the double wage scale. which penalizes new workers and guarantees job security amid the electric car transition.
During a trip to Michigan, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre noted that “Biden is fighting to make sure that the cars of the future are made in America by union American workers with good wages.” jobs, instead of made in China”.
Trump stole from the Democrats the traditional support of a large part of industrial workers in the so-called rust belt of the United States, where heavy industry is concentrated. He defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, among other states where the weight of blue-collar workers has a significant weight, and thanks to him he achieved the presidency. Biden won all three again in 2020 and, along with Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, they could decide again next year. The president of the United States campaigned strongly with the unions before the legislative elections in the middle of his term to keep the vote of the workers in those three states.
Companies don’t like Biden’s visit. Last year at this time, Biden visited the Detroit Auto Show with Mary Barra, the head of General Motors. A year later, he demonstrated against a plant of the same company. Before Biden’s visit, Stellantis defended its offer: “On the first day of the strike, President Biden said UAW workers ‘deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.’ “We agreed and presented a record offer,” he said in a statement. “Here are the facts: 21.4% compound wage increase, including a 10% increase in ratification, $1 billion in retirement security benefits, inflation protection measures, job security and many more,” he added.
Stellantis drew attention to competitors with non-union workers, including upstart electric car makers like Tesla. “We need a balanced agreement that fairly rewards our workers for their contributions to our success, without unfairly disadvantaging Stellantis against our non-union competitors,” he added.