Biden’s vision for manufacturing: One million U.S. workers making electric vehicles, chargers

PAI Staff Writer

JOE BIDEN WALKED THE PICKET LINE with UAW workers forced to strike GM last year. Earlier this month, he told UAW members in Warren, Mich., about his vision for one million new union auto factory jobs making electric vehicles in the U.S. A week after Biden spoke, Ford broke ground on a new, union F-150 electric truck plant in River Rouge, Mich. – UAW Facebook photo via PAI

Warren, Mich. (PAI) — Joe Biden envisions a clean energy factory future for U.S. workers, with a million new jobs for auto workers making electric vehicles, thousands of electrical workers making chargers for them, tax credits for firms that bring jobs back to the U.S., and big tax penalties for companies that ship U.S. jobs abroad.

That’s just fine with several industrial union leaders.

The Democratic presidential nominee went to Warren, Mich., Sept. 9 to speak to a crowd of United Auto Workers, contrasting Donald Trump’s gaudy job promises with his lousy performance, and promising to do a lot better.

Biden, who oversaw the 2009 Recovery Act as Barack Obama’s vice president – a nearly $800 billion government-spending program that involved more than 100,000 projects through some 275 programs within 28 federal agencies – pointed out, that the U.S. auto industry created jobs when he was Obama’s VP, and he, the UAW and the Detroit 3 had a big hand in that.

By contrast, auto makers and suppliers have lost jobs under Trump, Biden said, as has the economy as a whole. The U.S. now has 4.7 million fewer jobs than when Trump took over.

The Machinists, listing factory closures that have happened under Trump, included big plants in Kansas City, St. Cloud, Minn., and Joliet, Ill.

“President Trump has broken just about every promise he’s ever made to the American worker. And he’s failed,” Biden said. “He’s failed our economy and our country.”

Even before President Trump’s failed response to COVID-19 (the coronavirus) crashed through our economy, his reckless and chaotic trade policy had thrown American manufacturing into recession. It was already contracting in 2019, before the virus arrived in the U.S., said Biden.

“Under Donald Trump, Michigan lost auto jobs, even before COVID did it,” Biden said.

Once the federal government pulled the Detroit 3 out of the 2008 financial crash, its revival under Obama and Biden created 80,000 new auto jobs in Michigan alone, Biden said. Trump has lost a quarter of them, he said.   

“Trump was creating an average of 500,000 fewer jobs per year than (in) the last three years when President Obama and I were in office. When the GM transmission plant here in Warren closed last year, I bet the workers around here weren’t all that comforted by Trump’s empty promises.”

In the pre-coronavirus economy, vehicles and parts plants accounted for one of every 20 U.S. jobs. The latest federal data list 904,000 U.S. auto plant workers, including jobs at non-union foreign “transplants.” Millions more workers — from mom-and-pop diners who feed auto workers lunch to IBEW members who energize plants to Teamsters who drive big car carriers — depend on the auto industry.

Parts plants, other vehicle plants and gas stations produce another 3.8 million jobs, or one of every 37 overall.

Biden has an expanded vision of auto workers making electric vehicles, a vision he introduced by lauding union workers in Detroit and elsewhere.

“Here in the heart of the American automobile industry, we never forget everything we owe the unions. And unions, as you’ve heard me say many times, built this country. Unions built the economy. The economic engine has driven American manufacturing dynamism. And literally in the case of the auto workers, you’re the ones that did it.”

And those workers, and more, can do it again, Biden declared, building and maintaining electric vehicles, setting up their charging stations and – in an infrastructure plan he introduced earlier – rebuilding the nation’s crumbling roads those vehicles will travel on.

Proving Biden’s point, Ford broke ground this month on a new truck plant for the F-150 at River Rouge, Mich. The trucks will all be union-built, UAW Ford Vice President Gerald Kariem said.

“We are proud today to announce for our Ford UAW members and our nation that Ford is building this new plant to assemble the truck of the future, a battery electric Ford F-150,’ he said. “Where once the Mustang changed America, UAW members will now build the truck that will change America  – built Ford Tough by UAW members.”

And the federal government will jump start demand for such vehicles, Biden promised. “The United States government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles. We’re going to convert those government vehicles into electric vehicles, made in America, sourced right here” in the U.S.

That would be a large conversion. The General Services Administration calculates federal agencies own 640,000 vehicles, one-third of which are Postal Service trucks, vans and delivery cars.

By comparison, Walmart, which operates the largest private vehicle fleet, owns 67,000 vehicles.

“With the government providing the demand and support to retool factories…the United States automobile industry will set up expanding the capacity in the United States, not China, to lead the world in clean energy vehicles,” Biden declared.

Biden also promised to enact a 10 percent tax credit for firms that bring back outsourced jobs to the U.S., and a 10 percent surtax on companies that ship U.S. jobs overseas, as so many have done with call center work.

That wouldn’t be the only penalty Biden would levy against offshorers, he told the Auto Workers.

“No more deductions” to companies “for writing off expenses for the cost of sending jobs overseas, which is a big deal that could be done here at home by qualified American workers. I’m not looking to punish American business, but there’s a better way. Make it in Michigan, make it in America, invest in our communities and the workers in places like Warren,” Biden said with vigor.

The speech in Warren was part of Biden’s push to win back workers and their families in the key Great Lakes states where Trump took half of their votes four years ago. Trump attracted those votes by promising to bring plants back to the U.S. and by trashing the jobs-losing NAFTA “free trade” pact. Those voters helped Trump narrowly win Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The electoral votes from those four states sent him into the White House.

While Biden didn’t discuss so-called “free trade” pacts, the Democratic platform does. That’s one reason AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a member of the party platform committee, calls it the most pro-worker platform he’s ever seen.

“We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies that support jobs in America,” the platform says. “Any future trade agreements must make sure our trading partners cannot undercut American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy or the environment. They must not undermine democratic decision-making through special privileges and private courts for corporations, and trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive.”

Communications Workers (CWA) President Chris Shelton, Auto Workers (UAW) President Rory Gamble and Steel Workers (USW) President Tom Conway praised Biden’s remarks.

Trump “secured tax breaks for his billionaire buddies and for corporations that move jobs overseas, and totally deserted working people,” Shelton said. “He’s put a union-busting lawyer in charge of the Labor Department, gutted workers’ rights, and now he wants to make sure companies can’t face any sort of legal consequences for exposing workers to COVID-19.

“Trump has absolutely no moral compass, no compassion for people who are struggling, and no interest in actually rolling up his sleeves to solve the problems our nation is facing.”

“For far too long it’s been a fight to maintain the jobs we have while new automotive products and assembly are sent to Mexico, China and abroad,” Gamble added.

“Trade enforcement will help. But so too will Joe Biden once and for all closing the offshoring loophole in our tax code, imposing a new offshoring tax penalty and creating Biden’s new ‘Made in America’ tax incentive. These are strong proposals to keep jobs here and more importantly make sure new products stay here built by our UAW workforce.”

“Trump’s policies have been heavy on talk and massive corporate tax cuts, but light on strategic, long-term action when it comes to truly protecting American jobs. America’s workers and industries can’t count on short-term solutions,” Conway said in a statement.

“It’s no wonder then that imports continue to flow into our country, jobs continue to move offshore, and massive Chinese overcapacity continues to erode global prices of our manufactured goods. The Biden-Harris plan shows they will prioritize domestic manufacturing and – more importantly – that they intend to put American workers first.”

Machinists President Robert Martinez totally went after Trump. “Between the fumbled response to the coronavirus pandemic, the job loss that rivals the Great Depression and the daily rhetoric that serves only to divide working people, this president has struck out with the Machinists,” his statement read.

The statement included a long list of IAM-represented plants that closed, costing U.S. factory workers 9,462 jobs, since Trump took office, including:

  • Goodman in Tennessee – 1,433 jobs lost.
  • Electrolux in St. Cloud, Minn. – 1,100 jobs lost.
  • Alcoa in Ferndale, Wash. – 621 jobs lost.
  • Harley-Davidson in Kansas City – 620 jobs lost.
  • Caterpillar in Joliet, Ill. – 600 jobs lost.


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