Addressing the situation shortly after 13,000 auto workers commenced the strike, Biden pointed out that automakers have enjoyed substantial profits but haven’t distributed them to their employees.
“No one desires a strike,” remarked Biden from the White House Roosevelt Room, while also defending the workers’ right to strike and participate in collective bargaining.
Biden, who has positioned himself as the most pro-union president in history, acknowledged that automakers have made notable offers to workers but expressed the belief that they should go further to ensure that record corporate profits translate into record contracts for the UAW. “The bottom line is that auto workers played a significant role in creating America’s middle class,” stated Biden. “They deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.”
Biden announced that he would be sending two of his top aides – acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling – to Detroit to assist in reaching an agreement. He urged both sides to return to the negotiating table and remain there for as long as necessary.
Auto workers ceased production and initiated strikes at specific plants belonging to Ford Motor Co., General Motors, and Stellantis, the manufacturer of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat brands. The workers’ contracts had expired at 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.
This strike marked the first time in the union’s 88-year history that it simultaneously struck all three companies. If the strike were to continue for an extended period, it would have a significant economic impact, affecting ten states, reaching beyond Michigan and extending as far as Texas and New York, according to a report by Michigan economists.
Biden’s statement comes at a time when a recent USA TODAY and Suffolk University Sawyer Business School poll indicates that Americans have lingering concerns about rising costs, suggesting that his stance on the economy might be losing traction. The union is requesting a 40% wage increase over the contract’s duration, the reinstatement of a cost-of-living allowance adjustment to counter inflation, defined benefit pensions for all workers, a reduced workweek with more paid time off, increased benefits for retirees, and restrictions on the use of temporary workers.
The UAW initiated this historic strike targeting all three Detroit automakers simultaneously after contract negotiations failed to yield a new agreement. UAW members at three assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri initiated the strike. The initial facilities targeted included Ford Michigan Assembly Plant (Final Assembly and Paint only) in Wayne, Michigan; Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio; and General Motors Wentzville Assembly in Missouri. Union leaders have stated that they will select new target plants for strikes in waves if negotiations continue to falter. This strategy is intended to keep automakers off-balance and strengthen the union’s position to secure a more favorable contract than what the Detroit automakers have proposed thus far.