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Gallant Walks The Picket Line, Goofus Is A Dirty Scab
Tale of two presidents in Michigan, but which is which??
President Joe Biden flew to Michigan today to join striking United Auto Workers at a GM plant in Belleville on the 12th day of their strike against the Big Three American auto manufacturers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, aka “Formerly the Chrysler Corporation but now also Jeep and Fiat, plus Peugeot, Citroën, and for all we know Radio Flyer Wagons (but Probably Not), Also No Longer Mercedes.” The White House says Biden was invited to visit strikers by UAW president Shawn Fain, who continues to point out that he is not an Irish political party.
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Biden is joining the strikers a day before Donald Trump is scheduled to speak to a carefully selected audience of pro-Trump current and former union members in Detroit, to distract from his refusal to appear at the second Republican primary debate Wednesday night. Trump will claim he supports American workers, despite multiple reminders from union leaders that Trump’s Supreme Court appointees have routinely gutted union rights, as well as everything else he’s ever done in his entire life.
Biden’s trip is apparently the first time a US president has actually walked a picket line with striking workers, although the Associated Press does note that progressive Republican Teddy Roosevelt “invited labor leaders alongside mine operators to the White House amid a historic coal strike in 1902, a decision that was seen at the time as a rare embrace of unions as Roosevelt tried to resolve the dispute.”
The historical detail apparently led Fox News to headline one of its segments “‘Pro-Union’ Joe Biden set to join UAW picket lines,” because maybe Joe actually is lying about supporting unions, which are bad for America except when they can be used to bash Biden. (In other strike coverage, Fox columnists inform us that Biden’s support of action on climate change has “started a war” between “greens and unions” that will surely destroy the Democratic Party, and that “Biden is sinking like a stone and UAW members are staying on the sidelines this time,” so please pay no attention to all the union members cheering him today. They’re probably just there for the free ice cream, shame on Biden.
The AP also notes that during the 2020 campaign, Biden and other candidates joined striking casino workers on the picket line in Las Vegas; we don’t recall whether Trump tried to order CIA drones to hit those striking workers with Hellfire missiles or just fantasized about it.
Wonkette contributor Erik Loomis, a history prof at University of Rhode Island, got his name in the AP story, pointing out that
“This is absolutely unprecedented. No president has ever walked a picket line before.” [...] Presidents historically “avoided direct participation in strikes. They saw themselves more as mediators. They did not see it as their place to directly intervene in a strike or in labor action.”
While Biden hasn’t weighed in on the specific demands the UAW wants from automakers, such as a 40 percent wage increase, a 32-hour workweek paid as full-time, and an end to the lower pay tier that was forced on new autoworkers as part of the 2008 auto industry bailout, he has been clear that the auto companies need to do better by workers:
“I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the automobile industry was going under. They gave everything from their pensions on, and they saved the automobile industry,” Biden said Monday from the White House. He said workers should benefit from carmakers’ riches “now that the industry is roaring back.”
Biden has made support for unions a central theme of his presidency, and his trio of industrial policy programs — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act — have all included incentives for industry to hire union workers.
By contrast, Trump’s visit to Detroit tomorrow — where he’ll speak at a non-union auto parts manufacturing company — will be aimed at stoking the resentments of those white working class voters who supported him in 2016 because they believed he’d hurt the right people, regardless of whether his policies actually improved the economy or even the personal wellbeing of his voters. Just as long as he stuck it to Muslims, Mexicans, Black people, gays, women, and snooty liberals, that was fine.
Trump hasn’t actually said anything about the strikers’ goals, apart from insisting that he has “always had workers’ backs,” despite his Court appointees’ record of pro-corporate rulings, which the AP details in a fun read that lots of Trump voters will insist is fake news. The story also points out that auto workers weren’t exactly beneficiaries of any rocket-propelled growth following Trump’s 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads. Job growth in the auto industry in Michigan, which has more auto jobs than any other state, was flat during the Trump years.
In Ohio, the number of auto manufacturing jobs grew by fewer than 2,000 jobs during Trump’s four years in the White House. But [UAW regional director for Ohio and Indiana Dave Green] said some communities that had backed Trump in 2016 were abandoned by him. He pointed to Lordstown, Ohio, an area that Trump won by a significant margin in 2016 and where Green previously served as the local UAW president.
In 2017, during a visit to the region, Trump pledged that jobs there were “all coming back” and implored residents to stay put. A year later, General Motors announced the closure of its Lordstown plant, one of the largest employers in the area.
“The guy came to my community and flat out lied to everybody,” Green said last week. “Banks were closing, schools were shutting down. I wrote the guy two letters, and he didn’t even reply.”
On the other hand, Trump hates electric vehicles and lies a lot about Biden’s energy policy, which as we noted provides incentives across the board for the green energy transition to include union jobs, and to build up the EV supply chain — incentives which have led to an investment boom in new US battery plants and other technologies needed for EV manufacturing.
Trump, lying like a liar, claimed in June that Biden will
“murder the U.S. auto industry and kill countless union autoworker jobs forever, especially in Michigan and the Midwest. There is no such thing as a ‘fair transition’ to the destruction of these workers’ livelihoods and the obliteration of this cherished American industry.”
Trump and other Republicans have also lied that Biden climate policies will mostly benefit China, again ignoring the fact that from EV battery components to computer chips, the policy provides incentives to onshore the clean energy supply chain and manufacturing.
it’s not actually clear that less labor will be required to build EVs when one accounts for battery production. A recent study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that EVs actually require more overall work hours than ICE cars due to the labor demands of manufacturing battery cells.
For that reason, the UAW is demanding, as part of the strike terms, that unions represent workers in the Big Three’s battery factories, although as the New York piece explains, that’s complicated. In any case, Trump’s anti-EV argument remains bullshit: Joe Biden couldn’t force the auto industry to transition to EVs if he wanted, any more than Trump could wish the coal business back into existence. That transition is being driven by worldwide demand and especially by competition from China, and if anything, the Inflation Reduction Act will help US automakers — and the UAW —make that transition more effectively.
We’ll just close with the live stream of Joe on the picket line. Hope he doesn’t do something scandalous like petting a dog:
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