Biden to walk Michigan picket line with striking UAW workers
- President Joe Biden says he’ll join the picket line with the UAW in its strike against Detroit automakers
- The move would be highly unusual for a sitting president but reflects the stakes for blue-collar votes in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election
- The visit comes a day ahead of a trip to Michigan planned by Donald Trump, his likely 2024 Republican rival
President Joe Biden will take the United Auto Workers up on its offer to come to Michigan in an historic show of support for striking workers.
The president said he will travel to Michigan on Tuesday and join the picket line against the three Detroit automakers.
“I’ll … stand in solidarity with the men and women of (the) UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create,” Biden said Friday afternoon on X (formerly Twitter).
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Biden also said it’s time for Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis to reach agreement with the UAW following a strike that started in a limited fashion a week ago at just three factories, one operated by each of the automakers.
But the strike widened Friday, as UAW President Shawn Fain called for walkouts at 38 parts distribution centers across the U.S. run by GM and Stellantis, including 13 in Michigan, saying the move will last “until those two companies come to their senses.”
Fain did not expand the strike at Ford, saying that that company’s latest offer showed progress.
During his announcement Friday broadening the strike, Fain asked union supporters to join picket lines and gave a specific mention to Biden.
“We invite and encourage everyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line, from our friends and families all the way up to the president of the United States,” he said.
“We invite you to join us in our fight,” Fain said. “The way you can help is to build our movement and show the companies that the public stands with us and stands with our elected national negotiators.”
Biden’s appearance on a picket line is highly unusual for a president, according to a report in Reuters, and is taking place during a disruptive period in the automotive industry and as strikes and other union activism have flourished nationally in the past year.
"This would be a major, major shift for Biden to identify the presidency with striking workers, rather than siding with industry or staying above the fray,” Jeremi Suri, a historian and presidential scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, told the news service.
The UAW hasn’t yet endorsed Biden, a Democrat, in his reelection bid, even as many state and federal Democratic elected leaders in Michigan publicly back the union’s strike.
Biden’s visit comes as he prepares for a bruising reelection campaign next year, in which it is increasingly likely he may face a rematch with Republican former president Donald Trump. Both men are heavily courting the blue-collar and union vote, and Trump has leaned heavily into the anxiety many autoworkers are facing as the industry transitions to electric vehicles, which are expected to require fewer workers to manufacture.
Speaking of Trump, there are still no details on his expected visit to Michigan on Wednesday to meet with workers, a move that Fain dismissed. Trump has been critical of UAW leadership.
Biden made a statement in support of the workers hours after the strike began, saying that corporate profits “have not been shared fairly” with them. Union workers, Biden said, “deserve record contracts.”
The Detroit automakers say that’s exactly what they have proposed.
“We made a very competitive offer yesterday that includes all our current full-time hourly employees earning between $80,000 and $96,000 a year by the end of the contract,” Stellantis said Friday in a statement, noting that is a 21.4 percent compound increase.
Many of the state’s business and auto industry leaders say the impact of the strike is deepening, particularly in Michigan, which still has the most UAW workers and factories. Auto suppliers are facing layoffs, and Detroit automakers have laid off non-striking workers in factories affected by parts shortages.
“While we can all agree the hardworking and valuable union-represented workers for the Detroit Three have earned a pay increase, the overly aggressive tactics and demands by this union leadership place the state’s economy in serious peril and even risk the competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry,” Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber said in a statement.
“There is a very real limit to what the manufacturers can agree to and still produce vehicles in Michigan and the U.S.,” Baruah said. “Now is past the time to get serious, get real, and get an agreement.”
National economic losses from the first week of the UAW strike against the automakers reached $1.644 billion, according to an estimate from Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing.
The estimates, released Friday, include:
- Lost direct wages $107 million
- Company losses $511 million
- Direct economic loss $618 million
- Industry economic loss $1,174 million
- Other consumer and dealer losses $470 million
The highest concentrations of losses are in Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana and Kansas, said Patrick Anderson, principal and CEO.
Anderson initially forecast that a 10-day strike could cost the U.S. over $5 billion, before the UAW initiated a unique “stand up strike,” targeting specific targets across all three automakers.
About 58 percent of Americans support the UAW strike, according to a recent poll by Reuters.
Meanwhile, thousands of GM and Stellantis workers across the U.S. joined the 13,000 already on strike with the UAW’s decision at noon Friday to start a walkout at logistics centers that largely supply aftermarket parts to dealers and consumers.
While national in reach, “it has a disproportionate effect in Michigan,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHAuto, the auto-focused division of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
GM’s striking distribution centers in Michigan have a combined total of 2,572 workers, according to the automaker’s data. They are Davison Road Processing and Flint Processing in Genesee County; Lansing Redistribution Center in Eaton County; Pontiac Redistribution Center in Oakland County; and Willow Run Distribution Center in Wayne County and Ypsilanti Processing Center in Washtenaw County.
Other GM facilities affected by the strike are in Cincinnati; Denver; Hudson, Wisconsin; Chicago; Reno; Rancho Cucamonga, California; Fort Worth; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Jackson, Mississippi; Charlotte, North Carolina; Memphis and Philadelphia.
Stellantis’ striking MOPAR parts centers in Michigan are located in Marysville; Center Line, both a packaging center and a warehouse; MOPAR Sherwood, in Warren; Quality Engineering Center in Auburn Hills; Warren Parts; and MOPAR Romulus.
Other Stellantis sites joining the strike are in Cleveland; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Denver; Chicago; Los Angeles; Portland; Atlanta; FCA Mopar in Winchester, Virginia; Orlando; Dallas; New York and Boston.
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