On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden joined striking workers and United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain in Michigan, encouraging employees to keep fighting for wage increases. The news is just the latest in the ongoing UAW strikes, which were escalated to include even more Stellantis and General Motors (GM) parts facilities last Friday.
During his visit to one picket line outside of a GM Redistribution Center in Bellville, President Biden backed UAW calls for a 40-percent wage increase over a four-year period, according to CNBC. Speaking through a bullhorn at the picket line, he also said workers deserved more than just a pay raise.
“The fact of the matter is you guys, the UAW, you saved the auto industry back in 2008 and before, you made a lot of sacrifices, gave up a lot when the companies were in trouble, but now they’re doing incredibly well,” Biden said. “You should be doing incredibly well too.”
“Stick with it. You deserve a significant raise and other benefits,” Biden added.
Although the White House avoided answering whether Biden favors the UAW demands on Monday, the U.S. President replied “yes” when asked at the picket line whether he thought workers deserved a 40-percent pay increase.
Fain spoke after Biden, thanking the president for visiting and supporting workers.
“The CEOs think the future belongs to them,” Fain said. “Today belongs to the auto workers in the working class … Thank you, Mr. President, for coming. We know the president will do right by the working class.”
This is the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited the picket line in at least a century, according to CNBC.
Record corporate profits should mean record contracts.
It's time American autoworkers got a fair deal. pic.twitter.com/DN2IMbcuuh
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 26, 2023
Biden has been vocal in the past about his support for unions, calling himself “the most pro-union president in American history” on Tuesday. Additionally, some supporters of the non-union automaker Tesla have criticized Biden for focusing too much on union automakers despite repeated reports from Cars.com that Teslas are considered the most American-made cars.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit a nearby facility on Wednesday, skipping the second Republican presidential debate to attend. The site of the meeting, Drake Enterprises in Macomb County, Michigan, is not represented by the UAW, though Trump will meet with UAW members.
They want a 40% pay raise *and* a 32 hour workweek. Sure way to drive GM, Ford and Chrysler bankrupt in the fast lane.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 26, 2023
The UAW’s demands include the following: 40-percent wage increases over four years; 32-hour workweeks; traditional pension restorations; an end to tiered wages requiring significant time to reach top pay; a restoration of cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA); and other improved benefits such as vacation, retirement and family leave policies.
Last week, UAW strikes expanded to include an additional 20 Stellantis and 18 GM auto parts distribution centers across 20 U.S. states. The move has begun to affect other plants, as the automakers have been forced to lay off workers and shut down facilities, citing a strained supply of parts and work due to the strikes.
Ford, however, avoided escalated strikes because it reportedly made some progress in negotiations with the UAW. Still, the automaker said on Monday that there were still “significant gaps to close” in contract negotiations.
Update: Corrected to include that Trump will meet with UAW members at a non-UAW site.