President Joe Biden traveled to Wayne, Michigan, on Tuesday to speak with striking autoworkers. It’s the first time in history a sitting president has joined a union picket line.
“Wall Street didn’t build this country,” Biden told a crowd of gathered workers. “The middle class built this country.”
“The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. So 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,” he added.
On Sept. 15, the United Auto Workers union declared a strike against the Big Three auto manufacturers, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. Never in its history had the union called a strike against all three companies at once. The UAW, led by President Shawn Fain, has demanded changes to pay structure, the expansion of negotiated labor contracts to planned electric vehicle factories, and the revival of benefit programs that were revoked in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Biden addressed some of these concerns in Michigan. “The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 and before,” the president said. “You made a lot of sacrifices, you gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. Now, they’re doing incredibly well, and guess what, you should be doing incredibly well too.”
Biden added that autoworkers deserve a 40 percent increase in wages.
Biden’s expected 2024 rival, former President Donald Trump, is planning to make his own appearance in Michigan on Wednesday. In the meantime, the former president has been making his own overtures to striking workers.
“With Biden, it doesn’t matter what hourly wages they get, in three years there will be no autoworker jobs as they will all come out of China and other countries,” Trump wrote Tuesday on Truth Social. “With me, there will be jobs and wages like you’ve never seen before. Our economy will grow!”
Fain has made clear that he cares little for Trump’s attempts to court union workers. Following the former president’s announcement that he would be visiting Michigan, Fain issued a statement denouncing the plan.
“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 wrote. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding of what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
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