Biden joins the picket line and tells UAW workers they deserve raise

Biden joins the picket line – for 12 minutes: President tells UAW strikers they DESERVE more pay as he stands alongside workers demanding a four-day week and 40% raise

  • Biden joined striking auto workers at the Willow Run Redistribution Center
  • He said the workers deserved the 40% raise they were asking for
  • Biden shook hands, fist bumped workers before leaving the line 

President Joe Biden joined striking auto workers for 12 minutes in Michigan on Tuesday, standing with them on the picket line as they demanded higher wages. 

It is the first time in modern history a sitting president has joined striking workers. 

Biden walked the line, shaking hands and exchanging fist bumps. The president wore a baseball cap that read ‘UAW’ in solidarity with the  United Auto Workers and a blue sweater with the presidential seal.

The striking workers wore red shirts and carried signs. They chanted: ‘What do we want? Contact! When do we want it? Now.’ 

The president used a bullhorn to address the crowd: ‘You’ve heard me say it many times, Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class build this country. The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going, you deserve what you’ve earned. And you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.’

Asked if the workers deserved the 40% raise they are campaigning for, Biden said: ‘yes.’ 

The president told the workers he joined the picket line with casino workers in Las Vegas during the 2020 campaign but noted ‘this is the first time I’ve done it as president.’

He only spoke briefly before turning the bullhorn over to United Auto Workers leader Shawn Fain. He then joined the workers on the line and put his arm around one while Fain spoke.

President Biden addresses striking auto workers; he spent 12 minutes on the picket line

Fain noted it was historic for the president to join the line: ‘This is a historic moment: the 1st time in our country’s history that a sitting USA President has came out and stood on the picket line.’

‘I just want to take a moment to stand with all of you with our president and say thank you to the President. Thank you, Mr. President for coming.’ 

‘We know the President will do right by the working class. And when we do right by the working class, you can leave the rest of us because we’re gonna take care of it. Thank you for being a part of this.’

Biden shook a few more hands before he departed. He’s headed to California to raise money for his re-election campaign. Saturday marks the end of third quarter fundraising.  

It is unprecedented for a sitting president to join a picket line. 

Experts in presidential and U.S. labor history told the Associated Press they cannot recall an instance when a sitting president has joined an ongoing strike, even during the tenures of the more ardent pro-union presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. 

President Biden put his arm around a worker on the picket line

President Biden listens to United Auto Worker President Shawn Fain address the striking workers

President Biden joins striking workers on the picket line

In route to Michigan, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the ‘historic’ nature of Biden’s trip.

‘Today will mark the first time as a sitting President has visited a picket line in modern times. This is an important message to America’s auto workers and every hardworking American across across the country,’ she said. 

Biden’s visit comes after an invitation from United Auto Workers leader Shawn Fain. Fain greeted Biden when the president landed in Michigan.

Biden has called himself ‘the most pro-union president in American history.’ But he said on Tuesday he wasn’t worried about whether or not he’d garner the United Auto Workers endorsement.

‘I’m not worried about that,’ he said.  

He doubled down on his support of auto workers during an event at the White House on Monday.

‘I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the auto industry was going under. Think of everything from the pensions on. And they saved the automobile industry,’ Biden told reporters at an event on historically black colleges and universities.

‘And I think that now that the industry is roaring back, they should participate in the benefit. And take a look at the significant increase in salaries for executives and growth of the industry. They should benefit from it,’ he continued.

‘Yes I support – I always support the UAW,’ Biden said.

President Biden fist bumps with a striking auto worker

President Biden chats with a striking auto worker

Donald Trump will be in Detroit on Wednesday to address striking auto workers

President Joe Biden board Air Force One for his trip to Michigan

His appearance on the picket line comes 24 hours before Donald Trump touches down in Detroit to address striking workers. 

The former president is heavily courting the United Auto Workers for its endorsement. The UAW is one of the few major unions that has not endorsed Biden.

Trump will speak Wednesday evening at Drake Enterprises, a suburban Detroit auto-parts manufacturer. He’ll address autoworkers, plumbers and electricians – which will also double as counterprogramming the GOP presidential primary debate he is skipping. 

He will meet separately with striking autoworkers.

Fain has been critical of Trump. 

‘Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,’ he said earlier this year.  

Michigan polling company EPIC·MRA, said Biden’s support among union members has fallen as Trump’s has increased in recent months. 

Trump led Biden 46% to 43% among union members in an August poll after Biden led Trump 51% to 42% in June. 

Michigan is an important state in the presidential election. Trump won it in 2016 but lost it to Biden in 2020. 

Both men want to win it in 2024. 

Autoworkers represented by the UAW went on strike at a small number of factories last week after the union failed to reach a deal with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. 

On Friday, the UAW expanded that strike to 38 factories General Motors and Stellantis across 20 states. That about 13% of the union’s 146,000 members are now on the picket lines.

The union spared Ford additional strikes because the company has shown it wants to come to an agreement, UAW president Shawn Fain said. 

The union is asking for increased pay and benefits but the auto makers say they can’t meet those demands because they need to invest profits in a costly transition from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

Workers’ demands include the wage hike of up to 40 per cent, changes in contract length, a 32-hour workweek with full pay for the current 40-hour week, along with changes to retirement and health plans. 

The companies countered with a 19.5 per cent salary increase, up from an earlier offer of 17.5 per cent.

Annual gross profits are up 34 per cent at Ford and 50 per cent at GM since 2019 and 19 per cent at Stellantis from 2021 to 2022, NBC reported. The company formed when Fiat Chrysler merged with Peugeot. 

UAW workers picket outside of Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michgian

Trump has blamed Biden’s push for electronic vehicles as a reason the auto workers are suffering. It’s a charge he’s expected to repeat Wednesday night in his address and one he made on Tuesday as Biden departed for Michigan.

‘Joe Biden’s draconian and indefensible Electric Vehicle mandate will annihilate the U.S. auto industry and cost countless thousands of autoworkers their jobs. The only thing Biden could say today that would help the striking autoworkers is to announce the immediate termination of his ridiculous mandate. Anything else is just a feeble and insulting attempt to distract American labor from this vicious Biden betrayal. Crooked Joe should be ashamed to show his face before these hardworking Americans he is stabbing in the back,’ the former president said in a statement.

President Biden has made a big push for the transition to electric. The president has set an ambitious U.S. goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050. 

He argues his clean-energy agenda, including that shift toward electric vehicles, will create new manufacturing jobs.

His Inflation Reduction Act included $370 billion for a clean energy and climate package, which includes incentives for Americans to buy electric vehicles. 

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