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The UAW endorsed Biden — and panned Republican frontrunner Trump as a 'scab'

President Biden is greeted by Shawn Fain, President of the United Auto Workers. The union endorsed Biden's reelection bid on Wednesday.
Alex Brandon
/
AP
President Biden is greeted by Shawn Fain, President of the United Auto Workers. The union endorsed Biden's reelection bid on Wednesday.

The United Auto Workers endorsed President Biden's reelection campaign on Wednesday in a fiery speech from its president, Shawn Fain. Fain said Biden had earned the nod with his pro-union policies and went on to excoriate former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican race, for his past actions and statements.

Fain showed a highlight reel of Biden walking the picket line outside a General Motors facility in Wayne, Mich., the first time in modern history that a sitting president had done that.

He contrasted Biden's actions with what Trump did during a 40-day strike in 2019, displaying a blank slide to the ballroom of cheering union members. "He said nothing, he did nothing, not a damn thing, because he doesn't care about the American worker," Fain said.

"Donald Trump is a scab," Fain said. "Donald Trump stands against everything we stand for as a union, as a society."

"So that's a choice we face. It's not about who you like, it's not about your party. It's not this bulls*** about age. It's not about anything but our best shot at taking back power for the working class," he said.

President Biden was the first sitting president in modern history to walk a picket line with striking workers.
Evan Vucci / Associated Press
/
Associated Press
President Biden was the first sitting president in modern history to walk a picket line with striking workers.

Last year's strike was a tipping point

In the 2016 election, Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, in part with a message to workers hurt by free trade agreements.

But Biden won those key states in 2020, in part because he made gains among white working class voters — and won a majority of union households. It's a strategy his campaign is seeking to repeat this year, which makes the UAW endorsement key.

While other major U.S. unions were quick to endorse his campaign last year, the UAW — which represents nearly 400,000 members — held back. Fain said that the union's endorsements were "going to be earned and not freely given."

Then came the UAW's six-week strike last year with the Big Three automakers, and Biden's full-throated support for the union.

"I was so damn proud to stand on that picket line with you," Biden said on Wednesday. "You made sure the automobile future of the world will be made in America."

Fain also reminded members how Biden supported a UAW push to save a plant in Belvidere, Ill. "Instead of talking trash about our union, Joe Biden stood with us, and supported our historic victory to save Belvidere, and save that community," Fain said, recalling how Trump in 2008 had blamed unions for the crisis in the auto industry.

Aside from a brief protest from a few audience members who disrupted Biden's speech to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, the crowd seemed to largely back the union's endorsement of Biden.

"I think he's the best we have to represent our interests and the working class's interests," said Bob Reynolds, a retiree from Ford's Buffalo Stamping Plant.

While he's concerned about climate change, Reynolds said he is concerned about the speed of the transition to electric vehicles, which the Biden administration has made a top priority. Still, he's optimistic that the cars of the future will be built by UAW workers.

"We're organizing more and more. The union jobs are there if we can organize them," he said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Andrea Hsu
Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.