President Joe Biden made a strong statement Friday in support of the United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (formerly known as Chrysler).
Though Biden said the companies had made substantial offers to avert the strike, he added, "I believe they should go further. Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW.” But the striking union workers want more.
Politico obtained a statement from UAW head Shawn Fain, responding to Biden's statement.
“We agree with Joe Biden when he says ‘record profits mean record contracts.’ We don’t agree when he says negotiations have broken down. Our national elected negotiators and UAW leadership are hard at work at the bargaining table. Our members and allies are standing strong at the picket lines. Anyone who wants to stand with us can grab a sign and hold the line,” he said, as part of a larger statement.
"The companies and the media want to use fear tactics about how we’re going to wreck the economy. We’re not going to wreck the economy. The truth is we are going to wreck the billionaire economy. Working people are not afraid. You know who’s afraid? The corporate media is afraid. The White House is afraid. The companies are afraid.”
That should be a compelling statement to Biden, who has stressed building an economy from the "middle out and the bottom up."
In fact, Biden has cast his presidency as the antidote to the decades-long reign of Reaganomics, which successfully squeezed middle- and working-class Americans dry while transferring wealth to the top 1%.
“The trickle-down approach failed the middle class,” Biden said in June, during a speech touting the successes of Bidenomics. “Under trickle-down economics, it didn’t matter whether you made things—as long as you help a company’s bottom line, even if that meant seeing jobs and industries go overseas for cheaper labor.”
Biden is right and, until now, he has genuinely fashioned himself a pro-union guy. Now he has the perfect opportunity to put action to his rhetoric and show up on the side of the workers who make things. Go picket with the workers, Mr. President.
President Biden has a ready-made opportunity here to deliver a symbolic blow to the economic regime that has hollowed out America's middle class and destabilized the country.
If you want to see where the action is, check out Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the front lines with the workers.
"Michigan was built by working people and we stand together in the fight for good-paying jobs," Whitmer tweeted Friday, alongside pictures of her donning UAW red while greeting picketers.
But Michigan Democrats aren't the only high-profile lawmakers signaling their strong support for the auto workers through word and deed.
“It’s time to decide what side you’re on," Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania said Friday in a statement. "Are you on the side of the Big 3 CEOs who made a combined $74 million last year, and are claiming to they cannot afford to pay their workers? Or are you on the side of the UAW workers who bust their ass every day?”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Minority Whip Katherine Clark will be in Michigan this weekend, and are expected to visit the picket lines, according to Politico.
Whether the White House likes it or not, President Biden's absence on the lines will be a statement in and of itself.
Generation-defining moments are few and far between, and they usually come unexpectedly. President Ronald Reagan used his moment in 1981 to fire more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers and suck the life out of unions for decades.
President Biden can use this moment to mark an end to the ruin Reagan wrought on the power of hard-working, middle-class Americans. The president would receive a hero’s welcome at the picket lines. Actions always speak louder than words, particularly when the arc of the moral universe is at stake.
Add your name: Solidarity with United Auto Workers! #StandUpUAW