President Joe Biden is set to make a significant move by visiting Michigan to express his support for the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) strike against Detroit automakers.
The visit places him at the forefront of a contentious dispute that has pitched labor unions against major manufacturers, highlighting his commitment to workers’ rights and collective bargaining.
As a Democrat who identifies as a pro-union president, Biden’s visit to Michigan, scheduled a day ahead of former President Donald Trump’s visit, underscores his unwavering support for the rights of union workers to strike for better conditions and fair compensation.
He expressed this commitment on social media, emphasizing the need for a “win-win agreement” that ensures the prosperity of American auto manufacturing and well-paid UAW jobs.
Biden’s decision to visit Michigan is not only a show of support for labor but also a strategic move as he gears up for re-election in 2024, where he may potentially face Trump, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump’s campaign dismissed Biden’s trip as a “cheap photo op,” attributing it to the former president’s upcoming visit.
Nevertheless, the UAW invited Biden to visit their picket lines and announced plans to expand the strike to parts distribution centers across the United States at General Motors and Stellantis, although they reported progress in talks with Ford Motor.
Historian and presidential scholar Jeremi Suri noted the rarity of a president visiting strikers, highlighting that even pro-labor President Jimmy Carter refrained from doing so.
This move by Biden signals a shift toward aligning the presidency with striking workers, a departure from previous administrations’ stances.
While numerous unions have endorsed Biden’s re-election, the UAW has yet to do so. Biden echoed union leaders’ sentiments, urging automakers to ensure that record corporate profits translate into substantial contracts for the UAW.
Both the Detroit automakers and the UAW have vested interests in federal policy decisions.
Automakers are seeking billions in subsidies for electric vehicle production and are engaged in negotiations with the Biden administration over stringent emissions rules, a transition to EVs that they consider too rapid and costly.
Meanwhile, the UAW is concerned about potential job losses as EVs require fewer parts.
Trump’s planned rally in Detroit, targeting blue-collar voters who shifted to Biden in 2020, could be an attempt to regain their support.
However, he has not confirmed if he will visit the picket lines.
The last U.S. president to strongly support striking workers may have been Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, when he invited striking coal workers to the White House.
As for Biden’s visit, opinions among workers on the picket lines are mixed, with some advocating for political figures to stay out of labor disputes and others welcoming the added visibility and support.
In essence, Biden’s visit to Michigan signifies his dedication to workers’ rights and sets the stage for a potential electoral battle with Trump in 2024.