President Joe Biden will travel to Michigan on Tuesday and walk the picket line with members of the United Auto Workers union, he announced Friday, a trip that comes after the president faced political pressure to ramp up his public support for the union members.
“Tuesday, I’ll go to Michigan to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create. It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs,” Biden said in a post to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Biden’s trip, and the historic presidential appearance on a picket line, underscores the political opportunity as the strike against the nation’s three largest automakers – General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis – enters its second week. It will come one day before former President Donald Trump, currently the front-runner in the GOP presidential race, is scheduled to deliver a primetime speech to an audience of current and former union members, including from UAW, in Detroit. Earlier in the week, Trump’s team confirmed he would be skipping the second Republican primary debate for the Michigan speech.
The former president’s campaign lambasted Biden’s visit as a “cheap photo op,” with Trump adviser Jason Miller claiming Biden is only going to Michigan because Trump had announced his own trip.
While Biden has repeatedly touted his status as the most pro-labor president, the UAW has yet to offer an endorsement of his reelection bid as he faces low polling numbers on his handling of economic issues.
Union members, once a reliable Democratic voting block, have gradually gravitated to Republican candidates, according to CNN polls and the AFL-CIO. However, UAW President Shawn Fain publicly denounced Trump’s trip earlier this week.
Biden’s Tuesday trip was first reported by The Washington Post.
Earlier in the day, Fain invited Biden to join the picket lines after announcing an escalation of the union’s strike.
“We invite and encourage everyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line from our friends and family families, all the way up to the president of the United States,” Fain said Friday at a press conference. “We invite you to join us in our fight. The way you can help is to build our movement and show the companies that the public stands with us.”
A historic visit amid political pressure
Biden visiting a picket line is likely a first for any president.
Jeremi Suri, a presidential historian and professor at University of Texas at Austin, said he doesn’t believe any president has ever visited a picket line during a strike.
Presidents, including Biden, have previously declined to wade into union disputes to avoid the perception of taking sides on issues where the negotiating parties are often engaged in litigation. The National Labor Relations Board, whose members are appointed by the president but expected to function as an independent entity, currently has nearly 30 cases pending that were filed by the United Auto Workers.
Earlier this year Fain was vocal in his criticism of Biden, especially for his administration’s financial support of a transition by the auto industry from traditional gasoline powered cars to electric vehicles, which the UAW sees as a threat to its members’ jobs.
In June, when the administration approved a $9.2 billion government loan so that Ford and South Korean battery manufacturing partner SK could build three EV battery plants, Fain attacked Biden directly.
“Why is Joe Biden’s administration facilitating this corporate greed with taxpayer money?” Fain said at that time.
After Fain and Biden met face-to-face at the White House in July, the union boss has been far less critical of the president in public comments. And Biden has echoed many of the union’s talking points during its ongoing negotiations with the automakers.
On September 15, the day the strike started, Biden said that the automakers “should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”
Some Democratic politicians have been urging Biden to do more. California Rep. Ro Khanna on Monday told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich that Biden and other Democrats should join him on the picket line.
“I’d love to see the president out here,” he said, arguing the Democratic Party needs to demonstrate it’s “the party of the working class.”
This headline and story have been updated with additional reporting.