Courtesy of joebiden/Instagram
U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Michigan on Tuesday to support United Auto Workers members in their strike against Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.
“Tuesday, I’ll go to Michigan to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create,” Biden posted Friday on X, formerly Twitter. “It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs.”
The self-described “most pro-union president,” who is running for re-election in 2024, is making his visit a day before former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is scheduled to visit.
The UAW expanded its “stand up” strike on Friday, with workers at 38 General Motors and Stellantis parts distribution centers in 20 states walking off the job. Around 5,600 workers joined the 13,000 members who initiated the strike the week before. The union represents nearly 150,000 workers at the Big Three.
The strike strategy involves members at targeted auto plants striking suddenly, while other members continue working under expired contracts. Members at other plants could be called to strike at a moment’s notice, and in the meantime are holding the line by refusing to work voluntary overtime, slowing production.
The goal of the stand up strike is a gradual escalation of actions across the three companies, in order to “keep them guessing on what happens next,” UAW President Shawn Fain said.
Ford managed to avoid further strikes on Friday because the company has made “some real progress” in recent negotiations, Fain said.
“We still have serious issues to work through, but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they are serious about reaching a deal,” Fain said.
However, Fain said GM and Stellantis rejected the union’s proposals related to cost-of-living adjustments, job security, and profit sharing.
UAW is demanding 40% wage increases, more paid time off, and increased retiree pay, along with the restoration of benefits the workers once had, including defined benefit pensions, retiree medical benefits and cost of living adjustments. The union also wants to protect members’ jobs in the transition to electric vehicles.
The union is also demanding the end of lower-paid employment tiers, a concession the Teamsters recently won in their new contract with UPS, in a deal that was reached under the threat of a strike. UAW is also seeking the right to strike over plant closures, and the “working family protection program,” which would have automakers pay workers to do community service work if their company leaves town.
According to UAW, GM, Ford and Stellantis made a combined $21 billion in profits in the first six months of 2023, after raking in $250 billion in North American profits over the last decade. Their CEOs saw average pay increases of 40% in the last four years, according to the union, while members’ wages only rose about 6%, with their real wages falling due to inflation.
“So what have the Big Three done with these staggering profits? Instead of rewarding the workers who spent long hours wrecking their bodies on the line to make these profits possible, the Big Three have funneled billions into stock buyback schemes that artificially inflate the value of company shares,” Fain said in a video message to members last month.
“Record profits mean record contracts,” Fain said.
TMX contributed to this article.