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President Biden Makes Historic Visit to UAW Picket Line, Says Big Three Should ‘Step Up’

"If we can save [the automakers], then it's about time for them to step up for us," Biden said to picketing workers.

The United Auto Workers’ (UAW) simultaneous strike against the Big Three automakers is the first of its kind and shows no signs of slowing down. After beginning its strike at three key Ford, GM, and Stellantis plants, more work stoppages expanded to key parts centers last week. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden made a historic visit to a UAW picket line in Michigan.

Biden’s visit marked the first time in history that a sitting president joined a picket line during a labor dispute, and of course comes ahead of a presidential election in 2024. Biden donned a UAW hat and spoke alongside UAW President Shawn Fain to tell assembled workers that they “deserve the significant raise” and said that “we saved [the automakers], it’s about time they step up for us,” referring to the bailouts that GM and Chrysler (now Stellantis) took after the financial crisis of 2008.

President Joe Biden at the Van Buren Township, Michigan picket line. Getty Images

The president’s show of solidarity comes along with hopes of shoring up popular support for re-election next fall. According to CNN, Biden faces consistently low polling numbers on his handling of economic issues, and the UAW has not yet endorsed his campaign. His appearance at the picket line is a public way of demonstrating union backing while not placing direct pressure on negotiations, which his administration cannot legally participate in. Former president Donald Trump, who will in all likelihood oppose Biden for re-election in 2024, is expected to visit union workers tomorrow, Sept. 27, per USA Today.

Biden has been forthright in his support for domestic auto manufacturing, making appearances at auto shows and vehicle reveal events over the years. His unscheduled appearance at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to drive a prototype Ford F-150 Lightning is one of his most memorable, but the president has long shown an interest in cars and does shine a light on auto manufacturing more than most U.S. presidents. 

For what it’s worth, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden’s appearance did not reflect an endorsement of the UAW’s position. Despite that, the visit to the picket line is a significant and historic event, during a historic labor action against the Big Three. 

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