President Biden visited a United Auto Workers picket line in Detroit on Tuesday, joining union members as the strike nears two full weeks.
During the historical visit, Biden encouraged union members to “stick with it” and told attendees, “you deserve the significant raise you need.” Standing outside a General Motors-owned distribution center, the President was joined by United Auto Workers chief Shawn Fain, who thanked the White House for “coming to stand up with us in our generation-defining moment.”
According to the White House and labor historians, the move marks the first time that a sitting U.S. president has joined an ongoing strike. Although Biden has picketed with unions in the past, he has not done so since winning the 2020 election. His appearance alongside United Auto Workers leadership also came a day before 2024 GOP candidate Donald Trump is scheduled to make his appearance.
“The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 ... you made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. Now they’re doing incredibly well and guess what? You should be doing incredibly well.” — Joe Biden
Despite the President’s appearance and words of encouragement, the traditionally left-leaning United Auto Workers union has so far declined to voice support for any contender in the upcoming election. The Associated Press reports that Fain, asked about the organization’s endorsement plans, said such announcements would come at a later time. “We’ve got to get good contracts first and we’ll work out those things down the road,” he commented. When Biden was asked, he dismissed the question, saying, “I’m not worried about that.”
President Biden also pushed back on the notion that his decision to strike with union members was influenced by the Trump campaign’s plans to join the picket, noting that Fain had formally invited the White House the previous week. Despite his upcoming visit, the Republican candidate and United Auto Workers leadership have expressed little love for each other since negotiations with automakers began in July. In a letter to union members sent earlier this year, Fain noted that a second Trump presidency “would be a disaster” for the U.S.
The campaign sought to highlight the former president’s support for unions in a recently aired advertisement on Detroit radio stations, claiming he “always had their back.” Union leaders, including chiefs from non-automotive organizations, have since pointed to several Trump decisions that they believe suggest otherwise, notably the administration’s efforts to “gut” the labor relations board and its appointments of judges with anti-union voting records. Trump will be skipping tonight’s Republican primary debate to attend the strike.