Biden joins UAW in Michigan: ‘When labor does well, everybody does well’
- President Joe Biden spoke to UAW workers in Michigan ahead of the state’s Feb. 27 primary
- Biden touted the labor movement, Detroit-area workers and positive signs for the national economy
- The UAW recently endorsed Biden, drawing rebuke from former President Donald Trump, who is courting blue-collar voters
LANSING — President Joe Biden met with metro Detroit voters and United Auto Workers members on Thursday, celebrating his recent endorsement by the union and touting positive signs in the national economy.
“Wall Street didn’t build the middle class, labor built the middle class, and the middle class built the country,” Biden said in brief remarks at the UAW Region 1 training hall in Warren, where union members were calling voters ahead of Michigan's Feb. 27 presidential primary.
“When labor does well, everybody does well.”
Biden is expected to coast through the Democratic primary, but the Michigan ballot will include two challengers: U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and spiritual author Marianne Williamson.
A likely general election rematch looms with former President Donald Trump, who Biden defeated in Michigan by 154,188 votes in 2020.
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic leaders joined Biden at the union event, but the president was also greeted outside by protesters critical of how he has handled the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
It was Biden’s first trip to Michigan since September, when he joined UAW workers on the picket line during a strike that ultimately led to higher wage contracts with Detroit automakers.
In his union hall speech, the president touted his long relationship with the auto industry, saying he was “raised on GM” and telling local workers they “built my ‘76 Corvette — my pride.”
He also hailed falling inflation rates, which had spiked early in his term, and positive job growth numbers pointing to an economic rebound. Skeptics said “China's gonna eat our lunch. Well, guess what, man? We don't taste that good,” Biden said.
Republicans panned the visit.
“Michiganders have suffered paying an arm and a leg for everyday goods and services because of the wasteful policies coming from his administration and his Democrat allies in Michigan,” Mason Di Palma of the Republican State Leadership Committee said in a statement.
About that union endorsement
After months of speculation, the UAW endorsed Biden's re-election campaign last week, giving a boost to the Democratic president in a likely swing state where public opinion surveys have suggested he may struggle in a likely rematch against Trump.
“We know who’s been there for labor,” UAW President Shawn Fain said Thursday as he introduced Biden.
“You know what the hell is going to happen if this man is not president, because we've seen what happened: Labor went backwards. Working class people went backwards, the poor went backwards.”
Fain has acknowledged that many union members will not vote for Biden. But he’s also argued the Democratic incumbent has done more for workers than Trump, who has aggressively courted blue-collar voters in his bid to return to the White House.
Those comments have not sat well with Trump, who this weekend blasted Fain on social media, calling him a "real STIFF who is selling the Automobile Industry right into the big, powerful hands of China."
“Get rid of this dope & vote for DJT," Trump wrote, arguing Biden's push for electric vehicles will ultimately lead to fewer auto industry jobs.
Biden, by contrast, celebrated Fain on Thursday: “I owe this guy,” Biden said. “He gets it.”
Whitmer welcomed Biden to Michigan
Biden flew to Michigan aboard Air Force One, where he was joined by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, along with Rep. Debbie Dingell.
Several other Democrats waited to greet him at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, including Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.
Biden threw out compliments, calling Whitmer “the best governor in the country.” House Speaker Joe Tate, a Detroit Democrat and former NFL player who joined them at the Warren rally, “looks like he can still play,” Biden joked.
Protesters greeted Biden too
Protesters gathered outside the UAW hall in Warren to criticize Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Israel, arguing he is supporting "genocide" against Palestinians by failing to call for a ceasefire.
The war has put Biden in a difficult spot in Michigan, which is home to a large Arab-American population centered in Dearborn.
“I think it definitely could cause the Biden campaign to lose the election if they don’t start to realize that their lack of action when it comes to foreign policy is going to have political ramifications,” state Rep. Alabas Farhat, D-Dearborn, told Bridge Michigan law week.
Several local Arab-American leaders canceled a meeting with a Biden campaign official last week, but the White House said Thursday that Biden will send "senior administration officials" back to Michigan later this month.
Those officials will "hear directly from community leaders on a range of issues that are important to them and their families, including the conflict in Israel and Gaza," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier Thursday as Biden flew to Michigan.
A presidential Facetime
Biden also made a stop at They Say, a Black-owned restaurant in Harper Woods, where he spent roughly 20 minutes greeting diners.
Biden stopped at several booths and chatted with customers sitting at the bar, according to a pool report.
He posed for photos, shook hands and even FaceTimed with someone on a customer's phone.
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