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Biden Travels to Michigan to Join UAW Strike, Affirming His Pro-Union Credentials

by Ethan Kim
5 comments
Biden UAW Strike Participation

President Joe Biden’s choice to join United Auto Workers (UAW) on the twelfth day of their strike against major automobile manufacturers is a clear gesture of commitment to labor organizations, one that seems to have no historical precedent among U.S. presidents.

Although there have been instances where presidents showed sympathy for labor causes—Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman being notable examples—no sitting president is known to have joined an active strike. Theodore Roosevelt, during a significant coal strike in 1902, did invite labor representatives and mine operators to the White House, an action viewed as an uncommon show of support for unions as he sought to mediate the conflict.

It is not uncommon for politicians to make appearances at strikes to express union solidarity. During the 2020 Democratic primary, Biden, along with other candidates, joined a picket line of hundreds of casino workers in Las Vegas seeking a contract with The Palms Casino Resort. However, sitting presidents have traditionally avoided taking a direct role in labor disputes, as they must consider the broader implications such as economic impact and disruptions to supply chains.

Additional Coverage on Labor Strikes

  • UAW Strike Expands: Key Information as More Auto Workers Join Walkouts
  • Trump’s Record on Autoworkers Questioned by Union Leadership
  • Ongoing Writers’ Strike Awaits Crucial Votes on Settlement

Erik Loomis, a professor at the University of Rhode Island with expertise in U.S. labor history, remarked, “This move is truly unparalleled. Presidents have generally seen their role as mediators and have abstained from direct involvement in strikes or labor actions.”

In joining a picket line in suburban Detroit, Biden makes the most emphatic display yet of his support for labor unions. His pro-union stance has been evident through his vocal backing of efforts to unionize Amazon.com facilities and executive actions aimed at encouraging worker organization. Biden also garnered the collective endorsement of major unions earlier this year while avoiding high-dollar fundraisers in southern California due to ongoing strikes in Hollywood.

Throughout the continuing UAW strike, Biden has maintained that automobile companies need to do more to meet union demands. However, the White House has not committed to backing specific UAW objectives, like a 40% wage increase and full-time pay for a 32-hour work week.

Biden’s focus on labor issues comes at a time when former President Donald Trump is trying to erode union support in pivotal swing states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. Biden is amplifying his pro-union message at a time when public sentiment is generally favorable toward labor unions, as evidenced by a 67% approval rating in an August Gallup poll.

Opting out of the second Republican primary debate, Trump plans to visit Michigan to engage with striking autoworkers, capitalizing on economic dissatisfaction and resentment over Biden’s clean-energy initiatives promoting electric vehicles.

Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller criticized Biden’s commitment to autoworkers, referring to a small Ohio town still dealing with the aftermath of a train derailment that Biden had promised but failed to visit.

The White House, however, rebutted the idea that Trump’s actions influenced their plans and highlighted that Biden’s trip to Michigan was initiated by an invitation from UAW President Shawn Fain.

The ongoing UAW strike, which now extends to 20 states, presents a quandary for the Biden administration. Part of the workers’ discontent relates to the broader transition to electric vehicles, a move that has generated concerns about job security and the potential for non-unionized facilities.

Carolyn Nippa, a UAW member, expressed mixed feelings about Biden’s push for electric vehicles, despite her general approval of his presidency. Other picketers were more skeptical of Biden’s visit, suggesting it might be more about political optics than genuine concern for the middle class.

The Biden administration has not taken a formal role in the labor negotiations, and it recently decided to withdraw a plan to send advisers to Michigan, determining that monitoring from Washington would be more productive.

Contributors to this report include Krisher from Van Buren Township, Michigan, and Jill Colvin from Big Big News in Summerville, South Carolina.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Biden UAW Strike Support

What makes President Joe Biden’s decision to join the UAW strike unprecedented?

President Joe Biden’s decision to stand alongside United Auto Workers (UAW) members on the twelfth day of their strike against major automobile manufacturers is an action without historical precedent among U.S. presidents. No sitting president is known to have joined an active labor strike before.

Who else has shown such levels of support for labor unions among past presidents?

While Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman were notably pro-union presidents, neither joined an active labor strike. Theodore Roosevelt did invite labor leaders and mine operators to the White House during a significant coal strike in 1902, but that was seen more as a mediation effort.

How has Biden previously demonstrated his support for labor unions?

During the 2020 Democratic primary, Biden joined a picket line of casino workers in Las Vegas. He has also vocally supported unionization efforts at Amazon.com and enacted executive actions aimed at encouraging worker organization. Furthermore, Biden garnered a collective endorsement from major unions earlier this year.

Is there a political context to Biden’s decision?

Yes, Biden’s decision to join the UAW strikers comes at a time when former President Donald Trump is attempting to erode union support in crucial swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Additionally, public sentiment is generally favorable toward labor unions, with a 67% approval rating in an August Gallup poll.

What challenges does the ongoing UAW strike pose to the Biden administration?

The ongoing UAW strike, now extending to 20 states, presents a quandary for the Biden administration. Workers are concerned about the broader transition to electric vehicles, a key component of Biden’s clean-energy agenda, because it could impact job security and lead to non-unionized factories.

Are White House officials backing specific UAW demands?

Although Biden has stated that automobile companies need to do more to meet union demands, the White House has not committed to supporting specific UAW objectives like a 40% wage increase or full-time pay for a 32-hour work week.

More about Biden UAW Strike Support

  • U.S. Presidents and Labor Unions: A Historical Overview
  • The Rise and Impact of the United Auto Workers (UAW)
  • Joe Biden’s Labor Policies: An In-Depth Analysis
  • Previous Presidential Interactions with Labor Strikes
  • Recent Gallup Poll on Public Perception of Labor Unions
  • Biden’s Clean-Energy Agenda and Its Effect on the Auto Industry
  • Former President Donald Trump’s Union Policies and Actions

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5 comments

JaneSmith92 September 26, 2023 - 8:48 am

Isn’t it kinda risky for Biden to do this? What if the strike drags on and starts affecting the economy more?

Reply
MikeInMichigan September 26, 2023 - 9:50 am

Well, Biden showing up is a big deal here. UAW’s been fighting for better conditions for years now. but politics aside, is this gonna move the needle?

Reply
SaraW September 26, 2023 - 12:13 pm

Didn’t Trump say he was for the workers too? Just makes you wonder, who’s really got our back.

Reply
John_Doe September 26, 2023 - 4:13 pm

Wow, never thought I’d see the day a president actually stands with strikers. It’s about time, honestly.

Reply
FinancialGuru September 26, 2023 - 10:01 pm

Biden’s move is interesting, specially considering the upcoming elections. But let’s see if this will really result in any policy change or its just optics.

Reply

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