For the first time in modern history a sitting US president joined and spoke at at union picket line this week.
Joe Biden was accompanied by UAW president Shawn Fain on the UAW picket at the GM parts distribution centre in Bellville, Michigan on September 26th to support the union campaign for a 40% pay raise saying workers deserve a “lot more” than they are getting.
“Companies were in trouble, now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too,” Biden said through a hand held megaphone, referring to the 2008 government bailout of U.S. automakers. “You deserve what you’ve earned. And you’ve earned a helluva lot more than what you’re getting paid now,” he said.
Asked if he supported the 40% increase the union had asked for, a figure that mirrors CEO pay increases over four years, Biden said, “Yes. I think they should be able to bargain for that.”
Elon Musk owner of the anti union Tesla EV manufacturer said a 40% pay increase and a shorter working week would make companies bankrupt.
Flanked by secret service agents, Biden told a cheering picket line: “You deserve a significant raise and other benefits. Let’s get back what we lost,”
The UAW president Shawn Fain who’s union has yet to announce support for Biden in the presidential race told the picket line: “Today, the enemy isn’t some foreign company miles away. It’s right here in our own area – it’s corporate greed. The weapon we produce to fight that enemy is the liberators, the true liberators – it’s the working-class people,” as Biden stood next to him.
Former US President Donald Trump addressed a ‘rank & file’ rally as expected on September 27th in an attempt to counter Joe Biden’s visit to a UAW picket in Michigan the previous day.
In what one UAW official described as “a bust” – Trump addressed diehard supporters – and according to ABC News many of those at the rally were employees of Drake Enterprises, a non union auto supply chain company in Detroit.
There were some UAW members at the meeting but they didn’t include members currently on strike.
In his rambling speech Trump said he ‘saluted’ the UAW and said he was the only protector of American labour. He also attacked Biden’s environmental policies on car emissions, which he said encouraged electric vehicle production.
Describing the current strikes against the Big 3 automakers as “horrible and ridiculous” he berated Ford’s and GM CEOs for not fighting against the development of electric vehicles.
He also suggested the UAW should support him in his bid for the presidency and if they did he would “not say a bad thing about them again.”
This was 24 hours after saying he did wasn’t looking for UAW support.