UAW president invites Biden to join picket line as autoworker strikes expand to dozens of facilities

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Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, speaks to the crowd during a UAW rally in Detroit, on Sept. 15, 2023.

Emily Elconin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain on Friday invited President Joe Biden to join the picket line as striking workers expanded their walkout to dozens more General Motors and Stellantis facilities.

“We invite and encourage everyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line from our friends and families all the way up to the president of the United States,” Fain said during a Facebook Live stream.

“We invite you to join us in our fight,” the union boss said.

Fain made good on his promise to expand the strike if “serious progress” wasn’t made by noon ET on Friday in talks with the automakers.

The union boss announced workers would strike at every parts and distribution facility run by General Motors and Stellantis. The walkout will hit 38 locations across 20 states in nine regions, Fain said.

U.S. President Joe Biden walks to the White House from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The UAW decided to spare Ford because the company demonstrated it wants to come to an agreement, Fain said.

“We still have serious issues to work through, but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they’re serious about reaching a deal,” the UAW president said. “At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story.”

Biden sided with the striking workers last Friday when the UAW launched its initial targeted strikes against three facilities in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

Record profits at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis “have not been shared fairly, in my view, with the workers,” Biden said during a brief address last Friday.

Biden often touts his middle-class upbringing and has declared himself the “most pro-union president in American history.” The president is running for a second term in office next year and may need to win the heavily unionized swing state of Michigan. The union, which endorsed Biden in 2020, has not yet backed his reelection bid.

Members of the United Auto Workers union hold a practice picket in front of Stellantis headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, on Sept. 20, 2023.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

But Fain has been cool to Biden’s embrace. The union boss told MSNBC on Monday that he does not see a role for the White House in helping to mediate an agreement.

“This battle is not about the president,” Fain said. “It’s not about the former president or any other person prior to that. This battle is about the workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they’re fed up with going backwards.”

Biden said last week that he would dispatch acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior advisor Gene Sperling to Detroit this week to support the negotiations.

But the White House called that trip off Tuesday after the union and administration agreed it would be better to meet virtually through Zoom rather than in person.

Former President Donald Trump, the 2024 Republican front-runner, is courting a UAW endorsement, though he has also attacked the union’s leadership. Michigan was crucial to Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, and a major factor in his loss to Biden in 2020.

Trump is skipping the second GOP primary debate next week to speak with union members and workers in Detroit. The former president has said Biden’s push to transition to electric vehicles threatens the jobs of autoworkers in the U.S.

“The autoworkers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” the former president told NBC News in an interview that aired Sunday.