UAW withholds endorsement of Biden as he stays mostly quiet about contract talks

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But the United Auto Workers union isn’t reciprocating. But the United Auto Workers union isn’t returning the affection.

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Nearly 150,000 autoworkers could go on strike later this week if their negotiations with the big three automakers don’t reach a breakthrough. Tamara Keith, NPR’s senior White House correspondent reports. NPR’s senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: President Biden is a union guy and a car guy through and through.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Auto manufacturing’s large – been a middle – largely been a middle-class career with good pay that you could raise a family on. That’s something that won’t change under my watch. He told reporters that he did not think there would be a strike. The union was quick to respond. Here’s UAW president Shawn Fain on CNBC. Here’s UAW president Shawn Fain on CNBC.

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SHAWN FAIN: I think our strike can reaffirm to him of where the working-class people in this country stand. It’s time that politicians in the United States choose a side. You can either stand up for the billionaire class, where everyone else is left behind, OR you can stand up for the working classes. Gene Sperling is Biden’s economic advisor and his point man in these discussions. Sperling said the president was not making a prediction, and he certainly wasn’t trying undermine the union.

GENE STERLING: He supports UAW workers. But you present a situation like this to him – yeah, he’s going to look at it optimistically because he wants the parties to believe that they can find that win-win opportunity.

KEITH: These talks come as the Biden administration pushes the industry hard to make and sell more electric vehicles. The Inflation Reduction Act, his landmark climate law, offers huge financial incentives. The negotiations are the most important part of the process. The battery issue, although not technically part of negotiations, threatens to cause a rift between the autoworkers’ allies and the Democratic Party. Dingell claims that it is similar to 2016. That’s when former President Donald Trump won Michigan, in part because she says workers didn’t feel like Democrats cared about them.

DINGELL: Donald Trump didn’t deliver on trade, but he talked about trade. He demonstrated empathy. It’s important for President Biden to show that he cares, is listening, and wants to protect the jobs of his workers. The contract negotiations are being held up by the lack of endorsement. Here’s the UAW’s Fain on MSNBC.

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FAIN: You know, the one thing we’ve made clear is that we – our endorsements are going to be earned, not freely given. We’re trying to do things differently. There’s still a lot to do. Trump has been actively courting the autoworkers, and criticizing electric vehicles. In 2016, he managed to win a large number of votes from union members. Cedric De Leon, a labor studies expert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst says Biden must be vocal and side with workers during these negotiations. Trump will.

KEITH : He says this is much bigger than Biden receiving the UAW’s endorsement. There are millions of union workers in America watching to see how this goes, and they’re reliable voters, many of whom live in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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