President Joe Biden visited Detroit Tuesday afternoon to show solidarity with members of the United Auto Workers Union on the picket line. The UAW went on strike Friday after failing to come to a contract agreement with the Big Three automakers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.
About 13,000 workers have been on strike since Friday. The strikers are fighting for a 36% pay increase over four years and benefits for UAW workers such as the elimination of wage tiers, defined pension plans, four-day workweeks and increased time off. The union is also demanding the right to strike over plant closings as the companies have closed 65 plants over the last 20 years, which has left many workers unemployed.
Biden is the first sitting U.S. president in history to join a picket line at a labor strike. In a statement released this morning, AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler said Biden’s visit shows his commitment to supporting workers. AFL-CIO is a democratic federation representing 60 national and international organizations and 12.5 million workers.
“President Biden is demonstrating once again that he is the most pro-union president in history,” the statement read. “Working people know he has our backs every day and that he understands that UAW members’ fight for a fair contract is deeply connected to the struggle over the soul of our country.”
In a video of Biden’s remarks during the event released by PBS, Biden told the crowd the nation depends on autoworkers and encouraged them to fight for their demands.
“It’s a historic day at a historic moment in time,” Biden said. “… It’s about the autoworkers, who are part of the fabric of the working class of this country. We’re the people that make the world run. It’s not the billionaire class, not the elite few. It’s the working class of the billions of people who have been left behind. That’s what this battle is about — changing that.”
Biden’s visit comes ahead of former president Donald Trump’s visit to Michigan. The former president is expected to arrive in Detroit on Wednesday to speak at a non-union factory. Trump plans to speak at Drake Enterprises, an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier, in Clinton Township. On Monday, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, released a statement that said Trump had previously expressed opposition to autoworkers.
“On Wednesday, former President Trump, who turned his back on our autoworkers, will visit Michigan,” the statement read. “He’s lined the pockets of the wealthy and shipped American manufacturing jobs overseas. When times were tough, he said that auto plants should move to lower-cost, nonunion states. He even said the auto companies should just go bankrupt.”
Correction 9/28: Trump visited Drake Enterprises, a non-union factory and did not meet with UAW members or representatives in Michigan.
Daily Staff Reporter Sneha Dhandapani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.