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Fain pushes back as Trump plans Michigan trip to court UAW

people holding signs supporting thew UAW in Detroit
UAW members and representatives rally Sept. 15 outside of the UAW-Ford National Programs Center in Detroit. (Photo by Quinn Banks)
  • Former President Donald Trump plans to find union support during a visit to Michigan Sept. 27
  • Trump has been critical of the industry’s move toward electric vehicles
  • UAW President Shawn Fain pushed back on the appearance, saying the billionaire doesn’t understand the workers’ fight for wage increases

Sept. 27: Trump in Michigan tells auto workers that EVs are a ‘transition to hell’
Sept. 26: Biden backs higher pay for UAW workers during historic picket line visit
Sept. 22: Biden to walk Michigan picket line with striking UAW workers

Former President Donald Trump plans to travel to Michigan Sept. 27 to convene a group of striking United Auto Workers and other union members as he seeks votes.

But UAW President Shawn Fain won’t welcome him.

“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said Tuesday morning as news of Trump’s planned visit spread.


“We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding (of) what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” Fain said.


The time and location of Trump’s visit has not been announced.

In a visit to Michigan in June, Trump criticized the federally supported shift to EVs, saying the auto transformation means “decimation” for the state’s economy. 

Since then, Trump has continued to repeat the anti-EV themes from that visit: environmental extremism, potential Chinese dominance, manufacturing job losses and what he called a "ridiculous crusade to force everyone into electric cars."

Trump’s planned visit this month, reported by Politico and other national news outlets, exposes the lack of a role the upcoming presidential election is playing as the negotiations between the UAW on behalf of its 150,000 members and the Big Three legacy automakers stretch out into the first week of the strike.

Trump leads polls as the Republican contender for the party’s nomination to the 2024 presidential election. Coming to Detroit Sept. 27 means the embattled former president will miss the second Republican debate.

President Joe Biden, the presumed leader for the Democratic nomination, has not visited Detroit during late-stage negotiations or since the strike began. 

Leading Michigan Democrats including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and both U.S. senators have been to the picket lines, pledged support and spoke at rallies, but the UAW — often a Democrat stronghold in elections — has not yet endorsed a presidential contender.

The UAW called the strike early Friday morning after negotiators did not reach contracts with Ford Motor Co., General Motors or Stellantis by the expiration deadline. At issue are pay raises, cost of living increases and retiree health benefits, among other financial considerations. 

Underlying the union demands and the automaker responses is the auto industry’s shift to electrification and related issues like capital equipment costs to convert plants, competition among global automakers and likely eventual job losses and factory closings because EVs require fewer workers and parts. 


That tension is playing out politically, with Biden supporting the EV shift through manufacturer and consumer subsidies, saying both benefit the economy and environment, while Trump calls the moves “Biden’s catastrophic EV mandate.”

Biden, meanwhile, spoke briefly on Friday about the strike, saying he understands workers’ frustrations. He sent U.S. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to support negotiations.

Fain, who has been focused on economic gains for members without weighing in on EVs, dismissed the political posturing. He also has said administration officials Su and Sperling have not participated in negotiations.

"This battle is not about the president, it’s not about the former president or any other person prior to that,” he has said.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Ann Arbor and U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens of Waterford, both Democrats who have been advocates for Michigan’s UAW workers and the auto companies, spoke to the media on Tuesday, criticizing Trump’s planned visit.

US Rep. Debbie Dingell wearing a red shirt
US Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, taking photos with UAW members at a Detroit rally on Sept. 15, the first day of the stand-up strike. (Bridge photo by Quinn Banks)

“This contract is the most important that we're going to see in my lifetime,” Dingell said, adding that she does not think Biden should intervene, either.  “This industry is at a crossroads. We don't need someone putting kerosene on the fire. I think presidential politics needs to be out of this totally, in all ways.”

The UAW strike is the first-ever concurrent walkout against all three automakers, but the union is targeting specific locations and sending other workers back into the factories without contracts. The strategy will allow it to stretch out its $800 million strike fund, which pays a striking worker $500 per week.

So far, about 13,000 workers and three plants are affected by the strikes at Ford’s Michigan Assembly in Wayne; the Toledo Jeep complex in Ohio; and General Motors’ Wentzville Assembly near St. Louis, Missouri.

More factories could be added to the walkouts on Friday, Fain said Monday night, as he warned automakers that progress would need to be made by noon September 22. 

Meanwhile, details on Trump’s visit have not been disclosed. According to reports, a visit to the picket line has been discussed, but it appears unlikely.

In 2020, Trump lost the state by 332,000 votes, despite growing his support in rural and outstate areas. That year, Biden flipped 49 Republican cities and townships. 

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