Auto workers strike could test Biden’s claim to be the most pro-union president in US history

Lansing, Mich. (AP) – The possibility of an auto workers’ strike may be tested Joe Biden’s Treasured assertion that he was the most pro-Union president in American history.

United Auto Workers Organization Threat of strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellandis if tentative contact agreements are not reached by Thursday’s 11:59 p.m. That could change the political landscape in battleground Michigan and unleash economic shockwaves across the country.

The automobile sector accounts for 3% of the country’s GDP. A strike at a small number of factories run by those automakers, 146,000 workers could leave their jobs. The effects will be most immediate in states with heavy auto jobs, such as Michigan and Ohio and Indiana. But a prolonged strike could trigger car shortages and layoffs in auto supply industries and other sectors.

“Anything beyond a week, you start to feel pain,” says Maryk Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “Anything beyond two weeks is when the effects start to accumulate.”

Doc Killian, who has worked at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan for 26 years, says he can no longer afford the cars he helps build, crystallizing how the nation’s middle class is being squeezed.

“I think the entire American people realizes the impact that American auto workers have on the economy,” Killian said. “If we suffer, the American economy will suffer.”

Repeating the mantra “The middle class built America, unions built the middle class,” Biden has built his political career around such an argument. There is also his administration It succeeded in organized labor and promoted labor organization Shamelessly, often with Biden declares itself “The most pro-union president in American history.”

Sean Fine, however, was elected president of the United Auto Workers in March After committing to a more confrontational stance In talks with automakers, he countered Biden’s claim on CNN this week that “I think there’s a lot of work to be done in that regard.”

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Fine tried to broaden his advocacy beyond just auto workers, saying in a recent live broadcast that his union’s demands were to “raise standards for workers everywhere.”

“I truly hope that all of America will stand with us in this fight,” Fine said.

Biden also faces criticism from the former president Donald Trump, the front-runner in next year’s Republican presidential race, is now urging the UAW to endorse him. Trump has also condemned Rules put forth by the Biden administration Two-thirds of new passenger cars sold in the U.S. must be fully electric by 2032.

“Stand strong against Biden’s brutal attack on American workers and American auto workers,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday. “If you want more jobs, higher wages and higher pensions, vote for President Trump, and your leaders should support me. If they don’t, leave the union and start a new one that protects your interests.

But some union leaders and members disagree with efforts to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions because manufacturers in China and elsewhere may rush to produce electric vehicles if the U.S. does not. Fain, who previously praised the “transition to a clean auto industry” until auto workers “find a place in the new economy,” said Trump is “not someone who stands up for a good standard of living.”

Dave Green, UAW regional director for Ohio and Indiana, said the former president “has no credibility in my book” because “he has done nothing but pay lip service to supporting organized labor.”

Green said he considered Biden the most pro-union leader of his lifetime. But he believes the White House won’t stay neutral if a strike happens.

“We haven’t forgotten,” Green said. “When you’re in trouble, having people there to support you — that goes a long way.”

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He emphasized that Biden has faced some criticism from labor groups over the past year Congress approves legislation to prevent rail workers from going on strike, fears of heightened supply chains during the holidays. But unlike rail and airline workers, the president does not have the authority to order auto workers to stay on the job.

Nowhere will the political fallout from the auto workers’ strike be felt more than in Michigan, which Biden won by nearly 3 percentage points in 2020. The government also changed. During the midterms last yearFor the first time in 40 years, the governor’s office and legislature are out of Democratic control.

“The UAW plays an important role in Michigan politics, and if a strike happens, it will have a political impact any time,” said Mark Brewer, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. Brewer said a strike would leave Biden “talking and acting consistent with his previous advocacy for working people.”

That could mean alienating other allies, though, as Biden has in the past drawn support from top U.S. automakers over the administration’s rules on future sales. Former UAW chief Ray Curry, who was ousted by Fein, has worked with Biden in the past, even attending White House functions.

Still, Biden was eager to meet Fine given the pair’s shared working-class background, and they sat together in the Oval Office in July. The White House says it has been in regular contact with the UAW since then, and overall communication is now much better.

“We’re continuing to engage with the parties and certainly try to support negotiations in any way we can,” said Michigan native and longtime Democrat and Biden adviser Gene Sperling, who the president tapped as the administration’s point person in auto labor negotiations. “But there is no substitute for the parties staying on a 24/7 schedule to get what the president wants to be a win-win agreement.”

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At a White House briefing Wednesday, the chairman of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers did not respond to questions about whether the president would support striking workers or try to break the strike. Jared Bernstein cited Biden’s support of unions and collective bargaining.

“The president is very engaged,” Bernstein said of the Carr negotiations.

Union support played a key role in winning over Biden Slow start It helped him secure the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination success Not only Michigan, but Wisconsin and Pennsylvania also defeated Trump in the general election that year.

Underscoring his commitment to organized labor, Biden’s lone campaign rally since launching his re-election bid in April came in Philadelphia in June, with more than a dozen of the nation’s largest and most powerful unions. Endorsed Biden for second term.

It’s a show of strength for the president that so many unions are coming together for an unprecedented collective endorsement so early in an election cycle. Conspicuously absent from this event is the UAW. If Biden wants the UAW’s 2024 endorsement, Fine said, he needs to get it.

Other union leaders agree on what is at stake for Biden.

“Are strikes embarrassing to management?” said Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who endorsed Biden’s re-election bid this summer. “Of course they are.”

But, he said, “Management believes in workers and that workers have the power to get a better life through collective organization and collective bargaining.”

“It’s not a soundbite for them,” Weingarten said. “It’s a belief system.”

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Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

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