Biden and Trump duke it out over blue-collar voters with dueling UAW strike events

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Donald Trump and Joe Biden. AP

Biden and Trump duke it out over blue-collar voters with dueling UAW strike events

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President Joe Biden will travel to Detroit on Tuesday as he and former President Donald Trump vie for blue-collar voters, and a coveted labor endorsement, heading into the 2024 election.

Biden, the self-billed most pro-union president in history, will picket with United Auto Workers as members continue their strike against the Big Three automakers. The group endorsed Biden in the 2020 election but has yet to extend him their support ahead of a likely rematch against Trump.


For months, Trump has sought to capitalize on UAW withholding its endorsement of Biden. The former president will deliver remarks at a rally in Detroit on Wednesday evening. Trump’s speech was scheduled before Biden’s trip was announced, though the White House claims it did not affect Biden’s decision to join the picket line on Tuesday.

UAW President Shawn Fain specifically invited Biden by name, along with other “friends and family” of the union, to join the picket line when the labor group expanded its strike on Friday. The White House says that the logistical planning of the trip was behind the slight delay in Biden’s acceptance of Fain’s invitation.

“Absolutely not. This is a decision to visit the picket line that was based on his own desire. This is what the president wanted to do, to stand with auto workers,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Monday’s briefing when asked if Trump’s event forced Biden’s hand. “That’s what you’re going to see the president do tomorrow, and he, as you all know, Shawn Fains’s invitation from last week. He accepted that invitation and was proud, is proud to do so.”

“This is going to be a historic, historic trip that’s going to underscore the president is indeed the most pro-union president in history, and so that’s what you’re going to see. He’s going to be standing, going to join the picket line, standing in solidarity with the men and women of UAW. That is important for the president, he believes, to do and as they continue to fight for a fair share of the value they helped create,” she continued. “These corporations, the record profits that they’ve been able to make, you know, they believe, and we believe that they’re owed a fair share of that.”

The situation underlines Biden’s tenuous footing heading into the election year, one that pits his long-term economic platform against a core pillar of his electoral coalition as a growing portion of the country loses faith in his economic stewardship.

The president has made the electric vehicle transition a major component of “Bidenomics,” and the benefits and incentives his signature spending packages extend to auto manufacturers in an effort to accelerate the EV push lie at the heart of UAW’s strike.

The extended strike is expected to cost auto manufacturers billions in lost EV revenue and could cause a noticeable economic contraction if allowed to carry on for a significant time.

Meanwhile, a poll from NBC shows that just 37% of people “approve of the president’s handling of the economy,” a low mark for his nearly three years in office.

Jean-Pierre waved off Biden’s slipping economic polling during Monday’s briefing and said that the president and administration will focus on “doing what we can do to continue to deliver for the American people.”

“Polls, they are going to be all over the place. They are going to, you know, they don’t tell the whole story, actually, and that is just the way a poll is,” she continued. “What we’re going to focus on is how we can continue to do the job that the president promised that he would do, which is make Americans’ lives a little bit better. Give them that breathing room.”

However, she declined Monday to confirm if Biden backs the 40% pay increase and 32-hour work week sought by union members. Jean-Pierre demurred when pressed on the union’s specific demands and would not describe the contact administration officials have had with car companies throughout the process.

And later on Monday, Biden himself voiced support for UAW in the negotiations but again did not specifically address the demands outlined by UAW.

“I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the auto industry was going under. They saved the automobile industry,” he told reporters Monday during an event at the White House. “Now the industry is roaring back.”

Trump’s popularity with union members, much higher than previous Republican presidential candidates, helped secure him critical swing states in 2016, including Michigan, though Biden carried all union households by 16 points in 2020.

And the former president has continued to target the demographic even after Biden announced his trip to Detroit.


“Crooked Joe Biden, who is killing the United Autoworkers with his WEAK stance on China and his ridiculous insistence on All Electric Cars, every one of which will be made in China, saw that I was going to Michigan this week (Wednesday!), so the Fascists in the White House just announced he would go there tomorrow,” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday morning. “That was the only way to get him out of the basement and off his lazy a..! He has been a complete disaster for all Autoworkers in the U.S., so much do that with his warped plan & mind, their won’t be any Autoworkers left in 3 years. He is destroying our Country, and likewise, destroying the United Autoworkers.”

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