Former President Donald Trump’s plans to skip the second GOP presidential candidate debate and head to Michigan to meet with striking autoworkers isn’t going over well with the United Auto Workers (UAW) top official.
“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” UAW President Shawn Fain said. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
The UAW has not endorsed in the 2024 presidential election.
Currently, the UAW represents about 150,000 members across the country. For the first time in the union’s 88-year history, all three Detroit automakers — Stellantis, Ford and General Motors — are strike targets.
The union is striking at three initial plants: Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant, GM’s Wentzville plant in Missouri and Stellantis’ Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio.
The GOP debate is scheduled for Sept. 27 in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Trump plans to travel to Detroit “according to two Trump advisers with knowledge of the plans, injecting himself into the labor dispute between striking autoworkers and the nation’s leading auto manufacturers,” according to New York Times reporting.
“The all Electric Car is a disaster for both the United Auto Workers and the American Consumer. They will all be built in China and, they are too expensive, don’t go far enough, take too long to charge, and pose various dangers under certain atmospheric conditions. If this happens, the United Auto workers will be wiped out, along with all other auto workers in the United States. The all Electric Car policy is about as dumb as Open Borders and No Voter I.D. IT IS A COMPLETE AND TOTAL DISASTER!” Trump posted on social media last week.
The former president, who is facing 91 charges from his four indictments, has been critical of Fain.
“I think he’s not doing a good job in representing his union because he’s not going to have a union in three years from now,” Trump said of Fain. “Those jobs are all going to be gone because all of those electric cars are going to be made in China.”
Trump’s campaign also is set to run a radio ad against Biden in Toledo, Politico reports.
“He’s [Biden] turned his back on the autoworkers by cutting a deal that uses American tax dollars to help fund China’s electric car business. That’s a stake in the heart for American autoworkers, and they can count on President Trump to change that,” the ad says.
While serving as president, Trump essentially took a neutral stance during the UAW’s last strike against one of the Detroit Three — its 2019 action against General Motors that lasted 40 days. The Republican did not go to the picket line.
“Here we go again with General Motors and the United Auto Workers. Get together and make a deal!” he tweeted on Sept. 15, 2019.
The previous year, in May 2018, Trump issued Executive Order No. 13837 that hurt a union’s ability to represent workers by preventing union stewards from using official time to aid employees in preparing or pursuing grievances.
This time, the UAW is fighting for increased wages, a 32-hour work week and better pension benefits, among other issues such as an end to tiered compensation between workers with different lengths of service.
Biden, Dems and unions slam Trump
President Joe Biden, a Democrat who defeated Trump in the 2020 election, blasted his former opponent.
“Donald Trump is going to Michigan next week to lie to Michigan workers and pretend he didn’t spend his entire failed presidency selling them out at every turn,” Ammar Moussa, spokesperson for Biden-Harris 2024, said. “Instead of standing with workers, Trump cut taxes for the super-wealthy while auto companies shuttered their doors and shipped American jobs overseas.
“He’s said he would’ve let auto companies go bankrupt, devastating the industry and upending millions of lives. That’s why Trump lost Michigan in 2020 and his MAGA [Make America Great Again] friends further decimated the Michigan Republican Party and cost them 2022. No self-serving photo op can erase Trump’s four years of abandoning union workers and standing with his ultra-rich friends.”
Biden has not announced plans to visit with striking workers, although several of his allies, like U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have done so.
On Tuesday, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) and Haley Stevens (D-Waterford) joined Michigan Democrats for a press call slamming GOP former president Donald Trump’s “anti-worker record following reporting” of his planned visit to Michigan next week.
Both speakers highlighted how Trump’s “MAGAnomics” [Make America Great Agenda] agenda “hurt autoworkers, incentivized companies to ship jobs overseas, and lined the pockets of billionaires and big corporations at the expense of Michigan’s middle class.”
The call also spotlighted the “stark contrast” between Trump and President Joe Biden —”who has a proven record of being the most pro-union president in history and a demonstrated history of standing up for workers,” according to a press release issued by the Michigan Democratic Party.
“Trump was one of the most anti-worker presidents this country ever had. He showed us what he really stands for when he said he would have let the auto companies go bankrupt in 2008,” said Dingell. “The last thing Michigan’s autoworkers need right now is more empty promises or kerosene on a fire. So while President Trump’s gonna try to come in and erase his history … I think that Michiganders are going to know what the record was and will reject his anti-worker agenda.”
Stevens argued that Trump did little to address negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Detroit Three.
“He signed into place a tax law that gave billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest and did hardly anything, if close to nothing, for the middle class,” Stevens said. “I find this disrespectful to the men and women of the UAW on the picket line right now. Donald Trump can take his politics elsewhere.”
United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters General President Mark McManus also threw shade on a Trump strike visit.
“When Donald Trump was first elected president, he invited me into the White House during the first days of his administration and promised that he would pass the largest infrastructure bill in generations. He claimed to be a builder, just like us. But after four years, one thing was clear: when it comes to the bread and butter issues our members care about – fair wages, safe job sites, and the ability to retire with the dignity we earned – Donald Trump is just another fraud.”
Other GOP candidates
Several other 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls have taken anti-union stances.
“I was a union buster. I didn’t want to bring in companies that were unionized simply because I didn’t want to have that change the environment in our state. We very much watched out for workers. … We didn’t encourage middlemen between companies and their workers. We encouraged workers to have that direct communication with them,” Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, told Fox News in an interview on Saturday.
Haley also said on Fox News Tuesday that Biden’s pro-union stance was to blame for the strike.
“When you have a president that’s constantly saying go union, go union, this is what you get. The unions get emboldened, and then they start asking for things that companies have a tough time doing,” Haley said.
Mike Pence, former vice president under Trump, was asked by CNN on Sunday about the “general fairness” of higher CEO pay compared to their workers’ salaries.
“That ought to be left to the shareholders of that company. I’m somebody that believes in free enterprise,” Pence said. “I think those are decisions that can be made by shareholders and creating pressure. And I will fully support how these publicly traded companies operate. I’m not interested in government mandates or government bullying when it comes to those kind of issues.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at a South Carolina event Friday appeared to criticize the UAW’s demand for a 32-hour work week.
“We’re watching today, on every screen around the country, we’re seeing the UAW fight for more benefits and less hours working. More pay and fewer days on the job. It’s a disconnect from work,” Scott said.
At an Iowa event on Monday, Scott was asked by a voter if he would insert himself into labor disputes as president. The Republican said he supported firing striking workers.
“Let me answer the first question. I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike,” Scott said. “He said, you strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me. To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely.”
This article is republished from Michigan Advance, part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact editor-in-chief Susan J. Demas at [email protected].
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.