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Historic President-Picket Line Appearance

In an unprecedented move, President Joe Biden took a historic step by making a personal appearance at a United Auto Workers (UAW) picket line in Michigan. This marks the first time a sitting president has physically supported a union on a picket line. Previous presidents have maintained distance to avoid any perception of taking sides. However, President Biden’s statements made his stance clear: “You deserve what you’ve earned,” he affirmed, “and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid.”

The UAW strike commenced after midnight on September 15. Workers from plants under the management of Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, walked off the job as the deadline for a new contract expired.

Simultaneous UAW Strike Against the “Big 3” Automakers

For the first time in history, the UAW is simultaneously striking against all three major automakers, commonly referred to as the “big 3.” However, not all workers embarked on strike action simultaneously. Instead, UAW President Shawn Fain devised a strategy known as the “Stand Up Strike.” Under this approach, specific locals at particular plants were called to strike, while others continued working.

This historic strike unfolded in a year marked by a resurgence of union strength. The tight labor market has empowered workers, resulting in over 320,000 workers participating in 230 strikes in 2023, a substantial increase from the 27,000 workers involved in 116 strikes during the same period in 2021.

A Broader Landscape of Organized Labor

Throughout the United States, various workers, ranging from delivery drivers to baristas, have harnessed the power of organizing. Concurrently, the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes have drawn the nation’s attention. In a show of solidarity, many people are supporting these striking workers as they advocate for improved working conditions and a more equitable share of the profits derived from their labor.

Biden and Trump Vie for Union Support

President Biden’s appearance on the picket line coincides with his preparations for a potential rematch against former President Donald Trump. Trump, too, is actively seeking the support of the UAW, with plans for a primetime speech in Detroit. While both candidates aim to win the favor of union workers and those who empathize with their cause, their reception by union leaders differs significantly.

While President Biden, who has stated that he is the “most pro-union President in American history,” was personally invited to the strike by UAW President Fain, the same union leader vehemently opposed Trump’s planned visit. Fain unequivocally stated, “Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers.”

The UAW’s Compensation Demand

The UAW originally sought a 40% salary increase to keep pace with the substantial pay raises enjoyed by the CEOs of the “big 3” automakers. In the United States, a CEO’s salary is nearly 400 times higher than that of an average worker, having surged by an astounding 1,460% over the last four decades.