UAW president rejects Trump visit to Michigan, citing his anti-worker record
President Joe Biden became the first sitting president to join striking union workers on the picket line on Tuesday.
United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain on Tuesday criticized former President Donald Trump for holding a political event in Michigan during the union’s strike against the auto industry, citing Trump’s past criticism of union negotiations and opposition to workers’ rights.
The UAW is on strike against General Motors, Stellantis (formerly Chrysler), and Ford following the expiration of its existing contract with those companies. The union is seeking a wage increase and increased benefits following years of increased executive pay and larger profits in the auto industry.
Trump held a rally on Wednesday at Drake Enterprises in Clinton Township with mostly retired UAW workers. One attendee at Trump’s rally who held up a sign reading “union members for Trump” later told the Detroit News that they were not a union worker. Another person who held an “auto workers for Trump” sign told the outlet they were not an auto worker.
“In 2019, when he was the president of the United States, where was he then? Our workers at GM were on strike for 60 days — for two months they were out there on the picket lines. I didn’t see him hold a rally, I didn’t see him stand up at the picket line, and I sure as hell didn’t hear him comment about it. He was missing in action,” said Fain.
Fain criticized Trump for blaming union contracts for the financial difficulties auto manufacturers faced during the Great Recession in 2008. Fain also noted that in 2015, during Trump’s presidential campaign, he supported moving auto production from the Midwest to southern states “where people work for less money.”
The criticism of Trump came on the same day that President Joe Biden became the first sitting president to actively walk a picket line with striking workers.
“You deserve the significant raise you need,” Biden told striking UAW workers in Belleville, Michigan. “The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW — you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 and before. You made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. But now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well too.”
Trump has a track record of hostility to unionization and has spoken out against the right to organize.
Trump has supported so-called right-to-work laws, which allow workers to bypass union membership and the payment of union dues at unionized workplaces. Historically such laws have hindered unionization and resulted in lower earnings for workers.
“We’ve had great support from [union] workers, the people that work, the real workers, but I love the right to work,” Trump said in a 2016 interview, according to the Washington Examiner. “It is better for the people. You are not paying the big fees to the unions. The unions get big fees. A lot of people don’t realize they have to pay a lot of fees. I am talking about the workers. They have to pay big fees to the union. I like it because it gives great flexibility to the people. It gives great flexibility to the companies.”
Trump’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board opposed policies meant to encourage unionization; the progressive Economic Policy Institute said the board made it “more difficult for workers to exercise their right to elect union representation.”
Trump also supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which extended health insurance coverage to millions of workers.
In 2020, the UAW endorsed Biden over Trump, noting in a press release announcing the endorsement in April 2020, “Over the last four years, UAW members have seen an assault on worker rights to organize and fair wages, NLRB rules that impede organizing and anti-worker federal appointees.”
Biden has frequently stressed the importance of good-paying union jobs as part of his economic vision and has described them as a key element of “Bidenomics.”
“Let me say it loud and clear: Wall Street didn’t build America. The middle class built America, and unions built the middle class,” Biden said in Labor Day remarks in Philadelphia on Sept. 4.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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