Joe Biden joins UAW picket line in act of strike solidarity

Workers in Wayne County, Michigan, have been on strike for 12 days as they demand higher wages and shorter work weeks

President Joe Biden joins striking United Auto Workers on the picket line in Michigan. AP
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In an unprecedented show of solidarity with labour unions, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday joined car industry workers on the picket line as they continued their strike.

Mr Biden, wearing navy blue slacks and a union hat, stood alongside members of United Auto Workers as they waved signs in Wayne County, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, on the 12th day of the strike.

“Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class built the country, and the union built the middle class,” Mr Biden said over loud speaker.

UAW, you saved the car industry back in 2008 and before, you made a lot of sacrifices, you gave up a lot when companies were in trouble.

“Now they're doing incredibly well and guess what – you should be doing incredibly well, too. Stick with it.”

Workers are demanding a 40 per cent wage increase over the next four years, improved retirement benefits and shorter hours.

“Thank you, Mr President, for coming to stand up with us in our generation's defining moment,” said Shawn Fain, president of the UAW.

“We know that [Mr Biden] will do right by the working class.”

The move comes as Mr Biden, a Democrat who has often touted his pro-union stance, is gearing up for re-election next year. Observers have noted that no sitting US president has ever stood with workers on strike.

A main focus of the workers' concern is the global transition away from petrol-powered vehicles and towards electric, which would require fewer people to manufacture.

“President Biden is fighting to ensure that the cars of the future will be built in America by unionised American workers in good paying jobs instead of being built in China,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

The move also comes as Donald Trump, the front-runner to secure the Republican Party's nomination to run in 2024, is due to arrive in Detroit for a campaign event in an attempt to gain car workers' support.

The state of Michigan is a critical swing state. Mr Biden beat Mr Trump there by less than 3 per cent in the 2020 election.

So far, the UAW has not endorsed Mr Biden.

Asked what it would it take to get the group to endorse him, Mr Biden answered: “I’m not worried about that."

Updated: September 27, 2023, 11:56 AM