President Biden treaded carefully Friday as he addressed the decision by, after about 13,000 autoworkers walked off the job at midnight Friday.
Mr. Biden, who considers himself the most pro-union president in modern history, said he’s deploying two of his top administration officials to Detroit to assist with negotiations. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling are heading to Detroit to work with the UAW and the companies on an agreement. Mr. Biden wants a resolution for UAW workers, but recognizes that a prolonged strike would be bad news for the U.S. economy ahead of an election year, senior White House and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe noted.
“Let’s be clear, no one wants a strike. I’ll say it again — no one wants a strike,” the president said during remarks in the Roosevelt Room, insisting workers deserve a “fair share of the benefits they help create for an enterprise.”
Mr. Biden said he appreciates that the entities involved have worked “around the clock,” and said companies have made “significant offers,” but need to offer more. At this point, the auto companies are offering a 20% raise, among other things.
“Companies have made some significant offers, but I believe it should go further — to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts,” Mr. Biden said.
The strike began after union leaders were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.a four-day, 32-hour work week, for the pay of a five-day, 40-hour week, as well as substantial pay raises. They also want more paid time off and pension benefits, instead of 401K savings plans, among other demands.
This is the first time in UAW history that workers are striking at all three companies at once, UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live address late Thursday night.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, says Mr. Biden bears part of the blame for the UAW strike.
“The UAW strike and indeed the ‘summer of strikes’ is the natural result of the Biden administration’s ‘whole of government’ approach to promoting unionization at all costs,” Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne P. Clark said Friday.
Mr. Biden spoke with UAW leaders in the days leading up to the strike. Asked on Labor Day if he was worried about a UAW strike, Mr. Biden responded, “No, I’m not worried about a strike until it happens.”
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Mr. Biden said at the time.
Other politicians are speaking up, too. On Friday, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio visited striking UAW workers on the picket line in Toledo.
“Today, Ohioans stand in solidarity with autoworkers around our state as they demand the Big Three automakers respect the work they do to make these companies successful. Any union family knows that a strike is always a last resort — autoworkers want to be on the job, not on the picket line,” Brown said.