The President of the United States, Joe Biden, joined a picket of auto workers in Belleville (Michigan) this Tuesday (26), supported the demand for a 40% wage increase and told them that they deserve “very much more” than they are receiving.
Biden’s visit, the first by a US president to striking workers in modern history, comes one day before Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate in the 2024 elections, meets with workers in the same sector, also in Michigan.
Recent polls indicate that Trump is ahead of Biden in the preference of the American electorate and, in some cases, is up to 10 points apart from the current president. The Republican party candidate has a strong influence on the middle, white and working class, which, in the context of the strikes, has become the target of dispute among candidates for the presidency.
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Biden’s unprecedented action took place at a General Motors parts distribution center, where he joined dozens of workers linked to the United Auto Workers union, who have been carrying out a strike for 12 days involving employees from the country’s three largest automakers, known as the “Detroit’s Big 3”: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (founded in 2019 from the union of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot Citroën).
“Companies were in trouble, now they are doing incredibly well. And guess what? You guys should be doing incredibly well too,” said Biden, with the megaphone in hand.
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The president was referring to the government’s bailout of US automakers in 2009 — in the wake of the great crisis of 2008 — which included pay cuts.
“You’ve heard me say many times: Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country, and the unions built the middle class”, said the president. “That’s a fact, so let’s move on,” he said. Asked if he supported the 40% increase requested by the union, he replied: “Yes”.
Flanked by security guards, Biden greeted workers with clenched fists and took selfies with them after the speech, while the song “Small Town” by John Mellencamp played in the background.
UAW President Shawn Fain met Biden at the airport, handed the president a black union cap and joined him on the picket line.
Calling Biden’s visit a “historic moment,” Fain accused CEOs of keeping the profits and leaving workers “fighting for crumbs.” “We know the president will do what is right for the working class,” he said.
The UAW also encouraged unaffiliated workers to join the picket lines in support of the president’s visit. However, to date, it is the only major union that has not yet signed a deal with Biden for the 2024 elections.
The UAW is not involved in Trump’s visit and Fain does not plan to attend Wednesday’s event. Trump will address hundreds of workers at a meeting in the suburbs of Detroit, at an auto parts manufacturer called Drake Enterprises, which is not unionized, according to a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in the United States and Canada.
Biden, who strongly defends the need to combat global warming, has encouraged the production and sale of electric vehicles, through the injection of billions of dollars in tax subsidies. Trump accused Biden of “backstabbing” auto workers and said Biden’s electric vehicle mandate will “wipe out” the U.S. auto industry and cost “thousands of jobs.”
With information from Reuters and CNN
Editing: Patrícia de Matos