WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday urged Detroit’s big three automakers to share their profits with workers, appearing to tip the scales in favor of the United Auto Workers who walked off the job in a labor dispute with the automakers.
Speaking hours after the strike by 13,000 auto workers, Biden said automakers had enjoyed record profits but had not shared them with workers.
“No one wants to go on strike,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, but he defended workers’ right to do so and to participate in collective bargaining.
Biden, who has described himself as the most pro-union president in history, said automakers have made some significant offers to workers, “but I believe they should go further to ensure that record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.” .
“The bottom line is that autoworkers helped create America’s middle class,” Biden said. “They deserve a contract that supports them and the middle class.”
Biden said he would send two of his top aides — Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling — to Detroit to help the sides reach a deal. He invited both parties to return to the negotiating table and stay there as long as necessary.
Auto workers stopped making cars and went on strike at specific plants at Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis, which makes the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat brands. The workers’ contracts expired at 11.59pm on Easter Thursday.
The strike is the first time in the union’s 88-year history that it has affected all three companies at the same time.
Ten states would bear the brunt of any economic hit in a prolonged strike against the big three automakers. According to a report from Michigan economists, the strike’s impact could extend beyond Michigan to Texas and New York.
Biden’s warning comes as a new poll from USA TODAY and Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School released this week shows that Americans’ lingering concern about rising costs suggests he is losing his argument on the economy.
The union is calling for a 40% wage increase over the life of the contract, the reinstatement of a cost-of-living allowance adjustment to combat inflation, defined benefit pensions for all workers, a shortened working week and more paid holidays, greater benefits for retirees and limiting the use of temporary workers.
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Why is the UAW striking?
The auto workers union launched the historic strike Thursday night targeting all three Detroit automakers at once after contract negotiations failed to secure a new agreement. UAW members at three assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.
The first three plants targeted are the Ford Michigan assembly plant (final assembly and paint only) in Wayne, Michigan, the Stellantis Toledo assembly complex in Ohio, and General Motors’ Wentzville assembly in Missouri.
Union leaders have said they will select new target plants to strike in several waves if negotiations continue to fail to secure new deals with automakers. The strategy is designed to keep automakers off guard and leverage the union’s position to secure a better contract than offers made so far by Detroit automakers.
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Contribution: Jamie L. LaReau, Susan Tompor
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UAW strike: Biden urges companies to share profits with workers