Biden urges automakers to fairly share “record profits” with UAW workers

September 15, 2023

President Biden on Friday commented on the United Auto Workers strike, urging the Big Three automakers to ensure that “record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”

Some 13,000 of the UAW’s 145,000 members officially went on strike just after midnight Friday morning, in the union’s first-ever nationwide strike to be called simultaneously at all of the Big Three automakers in Detroit. Union members walked out at three plants: General Motors in Wentzville, Missouri; Ford in Wayne, Michigan; and Stellanits in Toledo, Ohio.

Stellantis builds vehicles under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler brands for North America.

Biden, who’s called himself the most union-friendly President ever, said Friday afternoon that “strong unions are critical to the growing economy and growing from the middle out, the bottom up, and not the top down.”

He added, “That’s especially true as we transition to a clean energy future, which we are in the process of doing.”

Pointing to a report last month from the Treasury Department, Biden asserted that strong union jobs are not just good for union members but also for non-union members as well, and thus for the overall economy.

“Unions raise workers wages,” Biden asserted, citing to the Treasury report. “[They] increase home ownership, increase retirement savings and increase access to critical benefits like sick leave and childcare, and reduce inequality—all of which strengthen our economy for all workers. That’s because unions raise standards across workplaces and entire industries, pushing up wages and strengthening benefits for everyone.”

Noting that he’s been working with both sides of table on the contract negotiations “since this began,” Biden did concede that the Big Three automakers have “made some significant offers,” though he believes they should “go further.”

Ahead of the walk-out, UAW President Shawn Fain said the Ford had offered union workers a 20% raise, General Motors an 18% raise, and Stellantis 17%. However, that’s far short of 40% raise over four years that the union wants—essentially the same pay raise that the automakers’ CEOs saw on average over the past four years, according to Fain. 

General Motors responded to the walkout by saying in a statement, “We are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments.”

“Let’s be clear: no one wants a strike,” Biden insisted. To help expedite the standoff, he said he was dispatching Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior advisor Gene Sperling to offer their full support to the parties in reaching a contract.

“The bottom line is that auto workers help create America’s middle class. They deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class,” Biden said, ending his remarks.

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