Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance
President Joe Biden returned Thursday to Michigan to join members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which last week put its support behind his reelection campaign.
Biden was joined by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor), U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and other Michigan leaders at the UAW union hall in Warren in Macomb County to celebrate the union’s accomplishments in the last year and its endorsement of Biden’s reelection campaign.
“Supporting you is the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” Biden told UAW members. “The single biggest reason why we have unions growing, the single biggest reason the economy is growing … because you are the best workers in the world.”
Michigan is expected to play a key role in the November general election, as Biden looks to win the state again. After arriving at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, Biden talked with patrons at the They Say restaurant in Harper Woods before leaving for the UAW hall, where there was a protest of pro-Palestinian activists outside.
This is the second time in recent months that Biden has come to Michigan to talk with UAW members. He became the first sitting U.S. president in modern history to visit a picket line in September during a historic strike against Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.
Biden’s support during the turmoil for striking autoworkers was not forgotten, as UAW President Shawn Fain made the union’s goals known after workers remained on strike for six weeks last year.
“We have one objective now. … We have one plan going forward and that’s to keep Joe Biden as our president,” Fain said. “We know who’s been there for labor and we sure as hell know who wasn’t.”
Biden spoke at a conference area where 100 UAW members were phone banking ahead of the state’s primary on Feb. 27. The Democrat said he was “raised” on General Motors, as his dad managed a dealership in Delaware. He added that conservative “trickle-down economics” never trickled down to his dad’s kitchen table.
“Wall Street didn’t build the middle class; labor built the middle class and the middle class built the country,” Biden said. “When labor does well, everyone does well.”
Fain announced the union’s endorsement of Biden’s campaign on Jan. 24 at the UAW’s biennial political conference in Washington, D.C. The union head drew a sharp comparison between Biden and GOP frontrunner former President Donald Trump.
“Rarely as a union do you get so clear of a choice between two candidates,” Fain said at the conference. “It’s not about who you like, it’s not about your party, it’s not about this b—–t about age. It’s not about anything but our best shot at taking back power for the working class.”
In September, Trump also traveled to Michigan during the UAW strike, but he visited a non-union plant in Macomb County where he advised the UAW to endorse him for president.
“Shawn, endorse Trump and you can take a nice two-month vacation, come back, and you guys are going to be better than you ever were,” Trump said. “The other way, you won’t have a vacation, Shawn. And in a short period of time, you’re not going to have a union. You’re not going to have jobs. You’re not going to have anything.”
Fain has long been critical of Trump.
“Trump is a scab,” Fain said at the D.C. event. He added that Trump has never stood with the working class and talk like his is cheap, while actions speak louder.
“Donald Trump stands against everything the UAW stands for. When you go back to our core issues — Wages. Retirement. Health care. Time. That’s what this election is about,” Fain said. “Instead of talking trash about our union, Joe Biden stood with us.”
By November, the UAW ratified new contracts with all three companies that included significant worker raises, an end to the tiered wage system and improvements to the automakers’ retirement benefits.
Biden is a “jobs president,” Whitmer said in a statement Thursday.
“Under President Biden, we’ve seen 14 million jobs created, including 800,000 manufacturing jobs, which is more than any president in a single term,” Whitmer said. “Michiganders know what that means: it means the education you paid for can be useful right away, it means you won’t bust a tire on the way to work because someone got hired to fix those potholes, it means your adult kids can afford to live on their own.”
Biden wrapped up his time at the union hall by praising government officials in the crowd, calling Whitmer “the best governor in the country” and Dingell a “fighter.” But Biden added that what’s going on in Michigan matters to the rest of the country, specifically what UAW workers have accomplished.
“Thank you and the whole country owes you,” Biden said to the UAW workers in Warren. “You’re not only helping auto workers, you’re helping every worker in the world.”
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