In a historic first, President Joe Biden visits striking UAW workers on the picket line

More than 25,000 auto workers at the Big Three are on strike

Missouri Correspondent

PRESIDENT BIDEN joined union members on the picket line at General Motors’ Willow Run Redistribution Center in Belleville, Mich. on Sept. 26, telling UAW members “It’s time to get back what we lost.” – UAW photo

Belleville, MI. – In a historic first, President Joe Biden joined striking United Auto Workers (UAW) on the picket line in Michigan, telling workers “It’s time to get back what we lost” as they fight for a 40 percent increase in pay – an increase that roughly mirrors the compensation paid to the CEOs of the Big Three automakers over the last four years.

UAW is also demanding cost-of-living adjustments that will nudge future wages higher in response to inflation, shorter work weeks, improvements to retiree pensions and health care, and job security measures like the ability to strike at plants that are designated for closing.

Biden’s visit marks the first time a sitting president has joined workers on a picket line. UAW President Shawn Fain met President Biden at the airport Sept. 26, discussed the union’s concerns and gave Biden a black UAW cap while on their way to the General Motors’ Willow Run Redistribution Center.

“UAW, you saved the auto industry back in 2008 and before,” Biden said. “You made a lot of sacrifices, you gave up a lot when the companies were in trouble, and now they’re doing incredibly well, and you should be doing incredibly well too. Stick with it.”

Biden was referring to the 2009 government bailout of U.S. auto makers, which included the autoworkers taking voluntary wage cuts. The Big Three automakers include Ford, General Motors and Chrysler parent company Stellantis.

“You deserve what you’ve earned,” Biden said. “And you’ve earned a helluva lot more than what you’re getting paid now.”

UAW President Shawn Fain said: “This is a historic moment, the first time in our country’s history that a sitting U.S. president has come out and stood on the picket line. Our president chose to stand up with workers in our fight for economic and social justice.

“Thank you for coming to stand up with us in our generation’s defining moment,” Fain later wrote in a statement after the visit. “We know the president will do right by the working class, and when we do right by the working class, you can leave the rest to us because we’re going to take care of this business.”

On Sept. 29, the UAW expanded its strike against Detroit automakers for the third time in three weeks, adding 7,000 workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a General Motors assembly factory near Lansing, Mich.

Fain told workers during a Facebook Live appearance that while negotiations haven’t broken down, the strikes were escalated because Ford and GM have refused to make meaningful progress in contract talks. He remained hopeful that deals could be reached.

Some 12,700 UAW members at Ford, GM, and Stellantis walked out at midnight on Sept. 14, marking the beginning of the UAW’s Stand Up Strike – the first ever to target all three automakers – starting with the GM Wentzville Assembly plant, the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex and the Ford Michigan Assembly plant.

On Sept. 22, UAW expanded the strike to include 38 additional parts distribution centers at GM and Stellantis plants in 20 states. The union did not strike at any additional Ford plants, noting progress made in contract negotiations.

If you’d like to help, UAW Local 2250 in Wentzville needs refreshments and snacks as well as help on the picket lines. To join Local 2250 in its efforts, stop by one of five gates at the GM Wentzville Assembly plant at 1500 State Highway A, Wentzville, MO 63385.

Additionally, you can make a donation of any size to the St. Louis Labor Council’s drive to serve meals on the picket line. The meals will be prepared by The Irish Gypsy, a highly-respected union bar and grill that has played a prominent role in supporting many union issues over the years. Its employees are members of UNITE HERE Local 74. Owner Denny Corrigan is a member of Insulators Local 1.

Contributions should be made payable to “The Irish Gypsy” and mailed to: UAW Food Fund, St. Louis Labor Council, 3301 Hollenberg Dr., Bridgeton, MO 63044.

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