President Joe Biden embarked on a noteworthy journey to Michigan on Tuesday, where he stood shoulder to shoulder with United Auto Workers (UAW) union members on the picket line, as their strike entered its second week.
In an unusual move for a sitting president, President Biden chose to visibly support the striking workers, a decision that has garnered significant attention. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that the administration would not directly engage in negotiations.
She refrained from disclosing whether the White House endorses the UAW workers’ current proposal. Initially, the administration had announced that Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and top White House adviser Gene Sperling would assist in negotiations, but they ultimately remained in Washington.
Jean-Pierre stated, “Su and Sperling have been in regular touch for the past several weeks with all parties involved.” The primary message behind President Biden’s presence at the strike is to convey unequivocal support for auto workers. “To be very clear, he is standing with them to ensure that they get a fair share,” Jean-Pierre reiterated.
While President Biden is scheduled to address the strikers and participate in the picket line, specific details of his day were not disclosed in advance. The decision to join the picket line was announced by the president shortly after former President Trump revealed his visit to Detroit, accusing President Biden of doing so merely in response to his own plans.
The UAW initiated their strike on September 15, initially targeting Detroit’s Big Three automakers and subsequently expanding their strike to include General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) distribution centers across 20 states. The Big Three also encompasses Ford. It’s worth noting that fewer than 20,000 UAW members are currently participating in the strike, out of the union’s nearly 150,000 members.
The UAW’s demands include a 36% pay increase, annual cost-of-living adjustments, pensions, and a four-day workweek, among other requests. As of now, the negotiating parties still appear to be significantly apart in their positions.
President Biden, who has positioned himself as a pro-union leader, stated last week that the companies have made “significant offers” but emphasized that more needs to be done. He stressed that workers deserve a “fair share of the benefits they help create for an enterprise,” expressing a commitment to ensuring that record corporate profits translate into substantial worker contracts as the strike continues.