President Biden treaded carefully on Friday when he addressed the decision byafter about 13,000 auto workers walked off the job at midnight Friday.
Sir. Biden, who considers himself the most pro-union president in modern history, said he is sending two of his top officials to Detroit to help with negotiations. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling are heading to Detroit to work with the UAW and the companies on an agreement. Mr. Biden wants a resolution for UAW workers but recognizes that a longer strike would be bad news for the U.S. economy ahead of an election year, noted senior White House and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe.
“Let’s be clear, nobody wants a strike. I’ll say it again — nobody wants a strike,” the president said during remarks in the Roosevelt Room, insisting that workers deserve a “fair share of the benefits they help create for a company.”
Mr. Biden said he appreciates that the entities involved have been working “around the clock” and said companies have made “significant offers” but need to offer more. At this time, the car companies offer, among other things, an increase of 20%.
“Companies have made some significant offers, but I think it should go further – to secure record corporate profits means record contracts,” Mr. Biden.
The strike began after union leaders were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.a 4-day, 32-hour work week, for the wages of a 5-day, 40-hour week, as well as significant wage increases. They also want more paid time off and retirement benefits in lieu of 401k savings plans, among other demands.
This is the first time in UAW history that workers are on strike at all three companies at once, UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live address late Thursday night.
The US Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, says Mr Biden bears some of the blame for the UAW strike.
“The UAW strike, and indeed the ‘summer of the strike,’ is the natural result of the Biden administration’s ‘whole of government’ approach to promote unionism at all costs,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark said Friday.
Mr. Biden spoke with UAW leaders in the days leading up to the strike. Asked on Labor Day if he was worried about a UAW strike, Mr. Biden: “No, I’m not worried about a strike until it happens.”
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Mr. Biden then.
Other politicians are also speaking. On Friday, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio visited striking UAW workers on the picket line in Toledo.
“Today, Ohioans stand in solidarity with auto workers across our state as they demand that the Big Three automakers respect the work they do to make these companies succeed. Every union family knows that a strike is always a last resort way out — auto workers want to be on the job, not on the line,” Brown said.
And Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s office said in a statement Friday that he plans to drive his Ford Bronco from Braddock, Pennsylvania, to Wayne, Michigan, to walk the line with UAW workers at the Ford plant where his Bronco was manufactured.