President Biden encouraged United Auto Workers members to expand their influence to non-unionized automakers during an appearance at a Thursday event hosted by the organization.
The President has now appeared alongside UAW members twice after having joined striking Detroit-Three employees in October for a historic visit to the picket line. In a Thursday meeting with United Auto Workers chief Shawn Fain in Illinois, Biden called the union’s deal with automakers a “game changer” and expressed hope that it would lead to improvements at other non-unionized companies such as Tesla and Toyota. “I’m a little selfish, I want this type of contract for all autoworkers,” he noted, addressing the crowd in a red UAW Local 1268 shirt presented to him earlier. “And I have a feeling the UAW has a plan for that.”
Biden’s statements echo Fain’s own sentiments, who expressed interest in leading unionization efforts beyond the Detroit-Three. “One of our biggest goals coming out of this historic contract victory is to organize like we’ve never organized before,” he commented in a video update posted in the final days of October. “When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three, but with the Big Five or Big Six.” In later comments, the United Auto Workers chief would go on to target Toyota, who announced plans to raise wages shortly after details of the union’s new contracts were made available. “They could have just as easily raised wages a month ago or a year ago,” said Fain. “They did it now because the company knows we’re coming for ’em.”
Biden also underlined his efforts to support the historically left-leaning union, which has yet to endorse his 2024 re-election bid. The President said he had urged Stellantis to reopen its Belvidere, Illinois plant after the company idled the facility earlier this year for an indefinite period of time. “I told my team, ‘Make Stellantis know Belvidere is a priority,'” The President stated, “so I got on the phone and let him know personally I thought it was a priority.” The factory in question originally built the Jeep Cherokee, a model that was discontinued this March. The closure became a point of contention between United Auto Workers negotiators and Dodge-Jeep-Ram-Chrysler manufacturing executives, who eventually capitulated and agreed to find new projects for the plant. The automaker has confirmed that its conversation with the President occurred but has yet to offer additional details.
In previous statements, Fain has said the union would wait to endorse any 2024 candidate until its contracts with Detroit-Three automakers were fully in effect. United Auto Workers members must still vote on their respective agreements with Stellantis, Ford and General Motors. Should a majority decline one or more of the tentative deals, employees may once again go on strike. Voting is likely to conclude in the coming weeks.