President Joe Biden showed his support for striking autoworkers in Michigan by joining them on the picket line. He expressed his belief that they deserve a 40% pay raise and stated that they should be receiving even more than they currently are.
Biden’s visit to the striking workers is the first time a U.S. president has done so in modern history. This event, along with Donald Trump’s upcoming speech to auto workers, highlights the significance of union support in the 2024 presidential election, despite unions representing a small portion of U.S. workers.
During his visit to a General Motors parts distribution center in Belleville, Michigan, Biden emphasized that the companies have seen significant improvement and that the workers should also benefit from this success. He referred to the 2009 government bailout of U.S. automakers, which included wage cuts, and stated that the workers deserve more than what they are currently being paid.
When asked about his support for the 40% pay increase requested by the union, Biden affirmed that he believes they should have the ability to negotiate for that raise. However, auto company sources expressed concerns that Biden’s endorsement of the pay hike may hinder reaching a compromise with the UAW.
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, voiced his opinion on social media, warning that a 40% pay increase and shorter work hours could lead to bankruptcy for companies. It’s worth noting that Tesla’s factories are not unionized.
After delivering his speech, Biden interacted with the crowd, exchanging fist bumps and taking selfies with them.
Trump is scheduled to address hundreds of workers at an auto supplier in a Detroit suburb the following day. The supplier, Drake Enterprises, is a nonunion manufacturer. Republicans believe that Biden’s push for electric vehicle manufacturing through tax rebates is unpopular among auto workers.
UAW President Shawn Fain greeted Biden at the airport and discussed the union’s concerns about the transition to electric vehicles. Fain thanked the president for standing with the workers but did not officially endorse Biden’s re-election bid. The union is not involved with Trump’s visit, and Fain does not plan to attend that event.
Both Biden and Trump are expected to refine their campaign messages in Michigan, a state where the auto industry and labor movement have significant political influence.
The Detroit Three automakers and the UAW have a lot at stake in federal policy decisions. Automakers rely on subsidies for electric vehicle production and are negotiating with the Biden administration on emissions rules. The union is concerned about job losses as the industry shifts to electric vehicles.
Although only a small percentage of U.S. workers are union members, their political influence is substantial, particularly in swing states like Michigan.
In the 2016 election, Trump gained support from union members, helping him win critical states in the Rust Belt. However, Biden regained support from unions in 2020 and won Michigan by a significant margin.
Trump plans to criticize Biden’s economic policies and incentives for electric vehicles during his visit to Michigan. He aims to create a divide between union members and their leaders, who criticized his labor policies during his presidency.
Biden’s visit to Michigan to support striking workers is considered a historic moment, as it is the most support a sitting president has shown to striking workers since 1902.
The auto industry and labor movement have deep connections to politics and elections in Michigan and other Midwestern states.
Both candidates will use their visits to Michigan to shape their campaign messages for the 2024 election.
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