President Biden visits UAW picket line, says workers deserve 40% raise

President Biden visits UAW picket line, says workers deserve 40% raise

President Joe Biden visited striking United Auto Workers union workers, joining the picket line alongside General Motors workers at the automaker’s Willow Run parts center. Speaking through a bullhorn, Biden said he had joined plenty of UAW picketing lines during his time as a senator before adding, “But I’ll tell you what. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it as a president.”

“Now the companies are doing incredibly well. And guess what?,” said Biden. “You should be doing incredibly well, too.” Speaking through the cheering crowd, Biden continued, “Stick with it. You deserve the significant raise you need, and other benefits.”

Biden joined the auto workers on day 12 of the strike. Asked if the UAW should get a 40% pay increase over the life of the contract that the UAW is seeking, Biden, wearing a UAW baseball cap, said yes.

“No deal, no wheels!” workers chanted as Biden arrived. “No pay, no parts!”

Videos from the scene indicate that Biden only spoke for a very brief time before handing the bullhorn to UAW President Shawn Fain. As Fain began speaking, Biden joined the front row of the crowd, exchanging greetings, handshakes and fist bumps with striking workers. Fain discussed the significance of the Willow Run site, where Ford workers built U.S. Air Force B-24 Liberator bombers in the 1940s and where GM ran a manufacturing complex until its bankruptcy in 2009. The plant, which primarily built transmissions, also produced weaponry for U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War.

Capitalizing on the idea of “the arsenal of democracy” during the opening remarks of his prepared speech, Fain said today’s enemy is “corporate greed. … And the weapon we produce to fight that enemy, the true liberators, is the working-class people.” Biden clearly approved of the message, pumping his fist alongside the striking UAW workers gathered for the speech.

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Fain concluded by thanking President Biden for coming out and “being a part of this fight.” Biden again took the bullhorn, saying, “Wall Street did not build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

It’s worth noting that the UAW has yet to endorse a candidate for the upcoming presidential election in 2024. Former President Donald Trump is set to visit striking auto workers in Michigan on Wednesday, September 27.

Meanwhile, the United Farm Workers announced its endorsement of Biden today, saying that the Democrat has proven throughout his life to be an “authentic champion” for workers and their families, regardless of race or national origin. The union had previously endorsed Biden over Trump in 2020.

MEMA, the Vehicle Suppliers Association, in a letter seen by Reuters, urged Biden to “effectuate federal assistance to ensure the viability of this critical industry sector. Without federal assistance, the ability of the automotive industry to resume full manufacturing capacity is at risk.” The group wants the Biden administration to provide low-interest loans and consider loan forgiveness for struggling small suppliers.

The White House did not immediately comment and has previously declined to comment on whether it is considering programs to support auto suppliers. 

Material from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.