President Biden plans to join striking autoworkers today, marking the first time a sitting president has visited a picket line. This is one day before former President Donald Trump also goes to Detroit to hold his own event— showing how political the UAW strike has become.
The following Cornell University labor experts are available for interviews.
Ileen DeVault, professor of labor history at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), says Biden’s participation on a UAW picket line signals that the administration feels the union is raising valid issues.
“It is one thing for a politician to speak to a group of strikers, but it is quite a different thing to walk a picket line. The latter requires more effort and demonstrates that Biden is ‘walking the walk’ as a self-proclaimed pro-union President.
“Since Biden was involved in the 2008 auto industry ‘bail-out,’ companies should be worried about this bold declaration on the part of the President. The leadership and members of the UAW should be pleased with this clear demonstration of support.”
Kate Bronfenbrenner is a senior lecturer at ILR, and an expert on union and employer organizing and bargaining strategies. She says Biden and Trump are holding competing, albeit very different, events in Detroit.
“President Biden is joining a picket line at the invitation of UAW President Shawn Fain, while former president Trump will hold a campaign rally at Drake Enterprises, a non-union auto supplier in Clinton Township, attended by former and current union members from a variety of unions, including the UAW.
“While Biden has a long record of supporting unions, including calling out the auto companies for not sharing more of their profits and attending a picket line during the 2019 UAW strike at GM, today he becomes the first sitting president to walk a picket line.
“In contrast, Trump has positioned himself as anti-union but pro-auto worker, attacking President Biden and the UAW leadership for destroying the U.S. auto industry and calling on autoworkers to stop paying dues to the UAW.”