Joe Biden became the first sitting U.S. president to join a picket line when he accepted UAW chief Shawn Fain’s invitation to come to metro Detroit and address striking union workers and march with them.
Biden, who was greeted at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, by Fain as well as other national and state politicians, donned a UAW baseball hat and headed straight over to meet striking workers outside a General Motors parts distribution center in Van Buren Township, west of Detroit.
“I marched in a lot of UAW picket lines when I was a senator — since 1973 — but, I tell you what, it’s the first time I’ve ever done it as president,” he told strikers using a bullhorn.
When asked by a reporter if he believes the workers should get a 40% raise, encouraged by the strikers, he said, “Yes, I think they should be able to bargain for that.”
The president, who prides himself on his close ties to unions, also told workers they’ve sacrificed for the good of the companies and should not only get raises but additional benefits and compensation as well. He then gave way to Fain.
“You know, this is a historic moment — the first time in our country’s history that a sitting USA president has came out and stood on the picket line,” Fain said. “Our president has chosen to stand up with workers in our fight for economic and social justice.”
Fain told reporters discussions with Ford were ongoing, noting that after five weeks of good progress, “then overnight they went from good progress to going backwards. So it’s just hard to predict. At the end of the day, our members will get their share of economic justice. And if we have to keep turning up the pressure, that’s what we’ll do.”
Elected earlier this year in a first-ever one member, one vote scenario, Fain’s continued to break barriers. Instead of picking a target company to establish a deal that would be used to reach agreement with the other two automakers, he elected to selectively strike all three automakers.
Because of the aforementioned progress with Ford, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker was spared when Fain expanded the strikes at GM and Stellantis to include 38 parts distribution centers. By halting work there, the fallout spreads to dealers and owners, who need parts to repair their vehicles.