President Biden Encourages Auto Workers on Strike, Sets Historic Precedent in Picket Line Appearance

by Ethan Kim
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President Biden UAW Strike Support

In an unprecedented move highlighting support for organized labor, President Joe Biden used a megaphone on Tuesday to motivate striking members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) to “persevere in your efforts.” The President made the remarks during a visit to the Detroit area, which was notably a day before a scheduled visit by former President Donald Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination in the upcoming elections.

Wearing a union-endorsed cap and engaging in fist-bumps with the workers, Biden declared that the labor force was deserving of the substantial pay increases they sought. His visit coincided with an ongoing strike that has stretched into its 12th day, affecting several General Motors distribution facilities. Workers on the picket line greeted Biden with chants of “No deal, no wheels!” and “No pay, no parts!”

Despite concerns about the negative economic impact of an extended strike, especially in Michigan—a crucial swing state—Biden endorsed the workers’ struggle for better compensation at a time when automotive corporations are enjoying increased profits.

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When questioned about whether UAW members were justified in demanding a 40% pay raise during negotiations, Biden answered affirmatively, saying, “Indeed, they should be negotiating for that.” He reiterated that the automotive industry had not adequately addressed union demands, particularly following the concessions made in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The White House indicated that Biden’s appearance on the picket line was a first for a sitting president, signaling his commitment to building union support as he campaigns for reelection. This move diverges from the stance of past presidents, who generally avoided such direct involvement in labor disputes.

In contrast, Trump criticized Biden’s visit as a mere publicity tactic to distract from what he labeled as the failing economic policies of the current administration.

The President’s visit was brief but significant. He was joined by UAW President Shawn Fain at the Willow Run Redistribution Center. Fain expressed his gratitude, describing the union’s ongoing struggle as a “defining moment” against “corporate avarice.”

Labor historians noted that Biden’s action was unparalleled, even when considering previous administrations that were sympathetic to union causes. His pro-union stance has been further substantiated by support for unionization attempts at Amazon facilities and executive orders that favor workers’ rights to organize.

Although the UAW has not yet endorsed Biden for reelection, the President dismissed concerns, stating that such endorsements would be decided later. Meanwhile, the broader transition to electric vehicles, a concern for many workers, remains a complex issue that the Biden administration continues to navigate.

Democrats are heavily promoting Biden’s labor-friendly credentials, especially as Trump is seeking to gain traction in key swing states where labor unions hold sway. Recent Gallup polling showed public support for labor unions standing at 67%, indicating that labor issues could be pivotal in upcoming elections.

While the strike has spread to 20 states, it represents a quandary for the Biden administration due to the workforce’s apprehensions about the move towards electric vehicles. White House officials maintain that Biden’s Michigan visit was at the request of Fain and was not influenced by Trump’s planned visit to the same area.

The Biden administration is not formally involved in the negotiations between the UAW and automotive companies. Talks are proceeding at a slow pace, with the possibility of extending the strike to additional facilities, according to Fain.

Contributor: Jill Colvin, Big Big News, Summerville, South Carolina.

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