President Joe Biden is preparing to make a historic visit to the picket line of the United Auto Workers in the Detroit area on Tuesday. This visit occurs 12 days into the union’s strike against the nation’s three largest automakers.
During his visit, President Biden will advocate for striking auto workers to receive a more equitable share of corporate profits from Ford Motor Co., General Motors, and Stellantis.
This is the first time in American history that a sitting president has stood with striking workers amid a labor dispute, according to historians.
The invitation for President Biden to join the picket line came from UAW President Shawn Fain last Friday, as the UAW expanded its strike to 38 sites across 20 states.
In contrast, former President Donald Trump, currently the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, is planning to hold a rally with current and retired union members in Michigan on Wednesday night to appeal to working-class voters.
The UAW’s demands include 40% pay raises for auto workers, a reduction to a four-day work week, eliminating a multi-tiered wage system, and reinstating a pension plan.
While some progress has been made with Ford, UAW President Fain has noted that General Motors and Stellantis may require additional persuasion.
It’s worth noting that President Biden’s visit to Michigan in support of the UAW workers doesn’t necessarily mean he endorses the union’s specific terms. Instead, the White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre, has stated that the president seeks to facilitate negotiations leading to “a record UAW contract.”
President Biden has long-standing ties with organized labor and has expressed his desire to be recognized as the “most pro-union president” in U.S. history.
However, this visit carries political risks as he strives to prevent potential national economic consequences resulting from an extended strike.
Erik Loomis, a University of Rhode Island labor historian, remarked, “It’s unprecedented. This has never happened before. For all the history between the Democrats and unions, FDR certainly wasn’t going to show up on a picket line. Harry Truman wasn’t going to. JFK wasn’t going to.”
In response to President Biden’s visit, Stellantis released a statement defending the company’s offer to the UAW while refraining from criticizing the president for standing with union workers.
Stellantis has proposed a 21.4% compounded wage increase, $1 billion in retirement security benefits, and an inflation protection measure.
The statement from the company emphasized its commitment to providing UAW workers with a contract that sustains them and supports the middle class.