President Biden set to make history by joining UAW picket line in Michigan

WAYNE COUNTY, Michigan – President Joe Biden is set to join the picket line of United Auto Workers in the Detroit area Tuesday in a historic visit for a sitting president 12 days into the union’s strike against the nation’s three largest automakers.

Biden will push for striking auto workers to receive a “fair share” of corporate profits from Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis. It marks the first time a president has joined a picket line of workers on strike in the middle of a labor dispute, historians say.

The visit comes after UAW President Shawn Fain invited Biden last Friday, as UAW expanded its strike to 38 sites across 20 states. Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner to win the 2024 Republican nomination, is set to hold a rally with current and former union members in Michigan on Wednesday night in an appeal to working-class voters.

The UAW wants 40% pay raises for auto workers, a four-day work week, the elimination of a multi-tiered wage system and the restoration of a pension plan. Fain touted some progress with Ford but said General Motors and Stellantis “need some pushing.”

Even though Biden will join UAW workers in Michigan, White House press secretary Jean-Pierre said the president doesn’t endorse UAW’s preferred terms neccesarily, but wants the parties to negotiate “a record UAW contract.”

President Joe Biden walks to board Air Force One for a trip to Michigan to join striking United Auto Workers on the picket line, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Biden has decades of close ties with organized labor and has said he wants to be known as the “most pro-union president” in U.S history. But the trip carries political risk as Biden looks to avoid national economic repercussions that could result from a prolonged strike.

“It’s unprecedented. This has never happened before,” said Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island. “For all of 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.”

Stellantis released a statement on Biden’s visit defending the company’s offer to UAW but not criticizing the president for joining union workers. Stellantis has agreed to a 21.4% compounded wage increase, $1 billion in retirement security benefits and an inflation protection measure.

“On the first day of the strike, President Biden said UAW workers ‘deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.’ We agree and presented a record offer,” the company said.

Reach Joey Garrison on X, formerly known as Twitter, @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Biden to make history by joining UAW picket line in Michigan

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