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Business News/ News / World/  Joe Biden's Michigan visit bolsters auto workers' strike, preceding Trump's arrival by one day
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Joe Biden's Michigan visit bolsters auto workers' strike, preceding Trump's arrival by one day

President Joe Biden plans to visit Michigan on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with striking United Auto Workers against Detroit automakers.

US President Joe Biden. (AP) (AP)Premium
US President Joe Biden. (AP) (AP)

President Joe Biden plans to visit Michigan on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with the United Auto Workers who are on strike against Detroit automakers. As reported by Reuters, this move places him at the heart of the conflict that has created tension between his labour supporters and prominent car manufacturers.

As a Democrat, President Joe Biden considers himself a strong advocate for labor unions. His upcoming visit to Michigan, which coincides with former President Donald Trump's visit to the state the following day, will emphasize his backing for the rights of union workers to strike and engage in collective bargaining.

"Tuesday, I'll go to Michigan to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create," Biden said on Friday in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. "It's time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs." Biden is running for re-election in 2024 and will likely face Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

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A spokesperson for Trump's campaign said Biden's trip to Michigan was "a cheap photo op." "The only reason Biden is going to Michigan on Tuesday is because President Trump announced he is going on Wednesday," the Trump campaign said in a statement late on Friday.

On Friday, the United Auto Workers (UAW) extended an invitation to President Biden to visit their striking workers on picket lines. Additionally, they announced their intention to widen the scope of their strike from Detroit to encompass parts distribution centers nationwide for General Motors and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler. Meanwhile, Stellantis reported significant advancements in their negotiations with Ford Motor.

"It's very rare for a president to visit strikers," said Jeremi Suri, a historian and presidential scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. He added that even pro-labor Democratic President Jimmy Carter never visited a picket line. “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," Reuters reported.

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While numerous labour unions have already given their endorsement for Biden's re-election, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has not yet provided its endorsement at this time. Biden has expressed the view that automakers should take additional steps to guarantee that their remarkable corporate profits translate into significant contracts for the UAW. This aligns with the sentiments expressed by union leaders.

The Detroit Three automakers and the UAW both have significant interests tied to federal policy decisions. Automakers are relying on substantial subsidies from Washington to support their production of electric vehicles. They are also engaged in negotiations with the Biden administration regarding forthcoming emissions regulations that mandate a rapid and costly transition to electric vehicles, a move the industry finds challenging.

On the other hand, the union is apprehensive about the shift to electric vehicles potentially leading to job losses due to the reduced need for parts in their production.

Donald Trump intends to visit Detroit to address a rally that is being promoted as an event for auto workers. His aim is to regain the support of blue-collar voters who shifted their allegiance to Biden in the 2020 election. Trump has urged union members to disregard the guidance of their union leaders.

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Trump has not said if he will visit the picket lines. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain blasted Trump earlier in the week, saying the union was "fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers." The last US president to show such support for striking workers was probably Theodore Roosevelt, Suri said. In 1902, Roosevelt invited striking coal workers to the White House with government officials and management, concerned that the country faced a coal shortage, Reuters reported.

Ahead of the precedent-shattering meeting, Roosevelt, like Biden, found himself with little leverage to negotiate. "There is literally nothing ... the national government has any power to do," Roosevelt complained to U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, according to a recounting of the strike on the Department of Labor website. "I am at wit's end how to proceed."

As reported by Reuters, workers on the picket lines had mixed feelings over whether Biden should visit. Some said politicians should stay out of the fray, while others said they would welcome the support if the strike continued.

"Me personally, I wouldn't mind if Biden stepped up and showed some support," said Laura Zielinski, 55, of Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday, noting Biden's visit to the Stellantis Toledo assembly plant in 2010 while he served as vice president.

"Support like that would put a spotlight on the talks - kind of give a nudge to the companies." Thomas Morris, 60, who was on a picket line in the Philadelphia suburbs, said he appreciated Biden's support of unions and calls for corporations to pass along record profits to workers and consumers. He would love to see Biden join. "It would bring a lot of publicity and help the fight," Morris said.

(With inputs from Reuters

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Updated: 23 Sep 2023, 06:37 AM IST
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