President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to join a picket line when he appeared before the United Auto Workers on Tuesday in Michigan.
Biden declared on Friday on the social media platform X that he would join the picket line and “stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create.”
He showed up on Tuesday at a General Motors redistribution center just outside Detroit to walk the picket line and give a very brief address to express his support for the workers as they continued their strike.
“Folks, you’ve heard me say many times, Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class!” Biden said, per CNN.
“That’s a fact, so let’s keep going. You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid.”
Biden’s remarks were followed by a speech from UAW President Shawn Fain, who said that the union knows “the President will do right by the working class.”
“The CEOs think the future belongs to them,” he said, per CNN. “Today belongs to the auto workers in the working class.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press gaggle that Biden is joining the picket line to ensure the “cars of the future will be built in America by unionized American workers in good-paying jobs instead of being built in China.”
Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island, said Biden’s visit is historically significant as he cannot recall another president appearing at a picket line.
“It’s unprecedented. This has never happened before,” said Loomis, per USA Today.
“For all of the history between the Democrats and unions, FDR certainly wasn’t going to show up on a picket line. Harry Truman wasn’t going to. JFK wasn’t going to.”
This appearance is also significant as it comes one day before Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election, is expected to host a rally in Detroit to voice support for the union as well, per The Guardian.
Public displays of support for the workers in Detroit could benefit candidates in the race, as Michigan is expected to be one of the most important states in the upcoming presidential election.
The state’s electoral college vote has switched parties each election year, coinciding with the eventual winner in the last three presidential elections.
The UAW began the strike on September 15 after the union could not reach an agreement with the three Detroit automakers, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Union members are seeking to increase their wages by 40% (46% compounded) over the next four years, decrease their work week to 32 hours, and have certain benefits added back into contracts.
Statements from all three big automakers have called the UAW’s decision to strike disappointing while emphasizing a continued dedication to successful negotiations, as The Dallas Express reported.
GM said that it had already offered an “unprecedented economic package” that was declined by the union, but the company will “continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”
Stellantis said UAW leadership had exhibited a “refusal to engage in a responsible manner to reach a fair agreement” and noted it would “take all the appropriate structural decisions to protect our North American operations and the Company.”
Ford said it had submitted four proposals to the UAW ahead of the strike, the last of which was “historically generous,” arguing that the union had negotiated for “unsustainable terms” but that the company “remains absolutely committed to reaching an agreement that rewards our employees and protects Ford’s ability to invest in the future as we move through industry-wide transformation.”