UAW president increases pressure on Biden with invitation to picket lines | ET REALITY


Shawn Fain, president of the United Automobile Workers, stepped up pressure on the White House on Friday with a public invitation to President Biden to join workers on the picket line in their escalating strike against the country’s major automakers.

“We invite and encourage everyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line, from our friends and family to the president of the United States,” Fain said in a speech streamed online.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Biden’s re-election campaign posted a video on social media of Republican presidential candidates and Fox News hosts lamenting his support for unions. Mr. Biden’s caption read: “Yeah.”

Seth Harris, a former deputy labor secretary who recently served as Biden’s top labor adviser, said he believed it was unlikely the president would join striking workers on a picket line. Doing so, Harris said, would be a distraction from the core issues of the UAW’s dispute with the auto companies and would set a precedent for other striking workers to have the president visit his picket line.

“The president’s role is to enthusiastically support collective bargaining because it is the means by which workers have a voice in their workplaces,” Harris said. “He is everyone’s president and he has to defend this system of collective bargaining and keep the parties negotiating with each other to achieve the desired result, which is an agreement that they can accept.”

Fain’s invitation comes a week after a widening work stoppage by auto workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants. The union president announced that the strike, which began last week at three Midwest plants, would expand to 38 more locations in 20 states across the country at noon Friday. He said talks with General Motors and Stellantis had not progressed significantly, but that Ford had done more to meet the union’s demands.

Biden has defended striking autoworkers, saying when the walkout began last week that “workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create.” The White House has sent Julie Su, acting Secretary of Labor, and Gene Sperling, a senior White House economic adviser, to seek an end to the strike.

Biden has referred to himself as “the most pro-union president in American history” and has long made his alliances and support for unions a central part of his political identity. But his administration’s push for a transition to electric vehicles has put him at odds with the UAW, because electric vehicles require fewer workers to produce.

The UAW has broken with other major unions by so far refusing to endorse Biden’s re-election bid.

Former President Donald J. Trump will skip next week’s Republican presidential primary debate and instead deliver a speech in Michigan to current and former union workers. Trump alienated a significant portion of unionized workers from Democrats in his 2016 victory by denouncing international free trade agreements. In his current campaign, he has taken a stand against the federal push for more electric vehicles.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina (who, like the rest of the Republican presidential candidates, is trailing far behind Trump) attempted to insert himself into the strike news cycle this week by suggesting that auto workers should be laid off, a measure that companies are legally prohibited from carrying out.

On Thursday, the UAW responded by filing a complaint against Mr. Scott with the National Labor Relations Board (such complaints are often dismissed). On Friday, Mr. Scott called the UAW “one of the most corrupt and scandal-plagued unions in America” and said the union’s contract proposal would lead to government bailouts.

Michigan, the heart of the American auto industry, is expected to be a key battleground state for both parties in next year’s presidential election. Trump narrowly won the state in 2016 after he backed Democrats for decades in presidential elections. Biden flipped the state in 2020.

Democrats now control every major state office in Michigan and have rallied to support striking workers, and many prominent elected officials have appeared at rallies and on picket lines over the past week.

Mr. Fain, who appeared at a rally with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont when the strike began, has been critical of Mr. Trump.

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