Tuesday, February 27

Biden joins picket line with UAW workers in Michigan: “Stick with it”

President Biden on Tuesday joined the picket line alongside United Auto Workers union members in Michigan, taking up a megaphone as he encouraged workers holding the line. 

The president urged workers to “stick with it,” saying they deserve a “significant” raise and other benefits as the strike has stretched on for 12 days. 

“The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the auto industry back in 2008 and before,” the president said in brief remarks outside a General Motors distribution center near Detroit. “Made a lot of sacrifices. Gave up a lot and companies were in trouble. But now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too.” 

Mr. Biden shook hands with picketers, and put his arm around a woman who appeared to wipe tears from her eyes. 

“You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now,” he said. 

U.S. President Joe Biden joins United Auto Workers picket line in Bellville, Michigan
President Joe Biden joins striking members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union on the picket line outside GM’s Willow Run Distribution Center, in Bellville, Wayne County, Michigan, Sept. 26, 2023.

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / REUTERS


It’s an unusual move for a sitting president to make such a visible intervention for striking workers, unprecedented in modern presidential history. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted Monday the administration is “not going to get into negotiations,” and wouldn’t say whether the White House supports UAW workers’ current proposal. But the president weighed in on Tuesday. 

Amid the noise, a reporter asked the president if the UAW should get a 40% pay increase. 

Striking UAW workers said, “Yes!”

“Yes, I think they should be able to bargain for that,” the president replied. 

The Biden administration had said it would send acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and top White House adviser Gene Sperling to help with negotiations, but then decided last week to keep the two in Washington. Su and Sperling “have been in regular touch for the past several weeks with all parties,” Jean-Pierre said.

U.S. President Joe Biden joins United Auto Workers picket line in Bellville, Michigan
President Joe Biden greets people as he joins striking auto workers on UAW picket line outside GM’s Willow Run Distribution Center, in Bellville, Michigan, Sept. 26, 2023.

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / REUTERS


Mr. Biden last week announced he would join the picket line, shortly after former President Trump announced he would visit Detroit on Wednesday and skip Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate in California. Trump has accused Mr. Biden of only visiting because Trump said he would. 

“Crooked Joe should be ashamed to show his face before these hardworking Americans he is stabbing in the back,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday. “With Biden, it doesn’t matter what hourly wages they get, in three years there will be no autoworker jobs as they will all come out of China and other countries.”

Jean-Pierre said the president’s presence is supposed to send the message that “we support the auto workers.”

“To be very clear, he is standing with them to make sure that they get a fair share,” Jean-Pierre said during Monday’s press briefing. 

The UAW, which began its walkout on Sept. 15, has expanded its strike against the Big Three automakers to include General Motors and Chrysler parent company Stellantis distribution centers across 20 states. Fewer than 20,000 UAW members are striking, out of the UAW’s nearly 150,000 members. 

The UAW has demanded a 36% pay increase, annual cost-of-living adjustments, pensions and a four-day work week, among other things. The sides still appear far apart.

Mr. Biden, who refers to himself as the most pro-union president, said last week that the companies have made “significant offers” but must do more. The president said workers deserve a “fair share of the benefits they help create for an enterprise.”

“Companies have made some significant offers, but I believe it should go further — to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts,” the president said when the strike began.



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