Joe Biden will become the first sitting US president to appear on a picket line on Tuesday, making an appearance in Michigan in an effort to show solidarity with striking members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which is locked in an escalating dispute with America’s three biggest carmakers.
In a high-stakes effort to steal a march on Donald Trump, Biden will offer his backing to strikers at a plant in the Detroit area as part of an all-out bid to retain the support of union members in Michigan, seen as a key presidential election battleground state.
The US president’s visit comes a day before Trump, his expected Republican opponent in next year’s poll, visits Detroit – the historic centre of the US car industry – to address workers in his own pitch for the strikers’ support.
Trump, who won Michigan with the help of union members’ support in his 2016 election victory over Hillary Clinton before losing it four years later in his defeat to Biden, is not expected to visit a picket line.
Biden’s trip is designed to burnish his self-proclaimed credentials as the most union-friendly president in US history and possibly also to earn the explicit backing of the UAW, which has yet to endorse his bid for re-election.
In a post on X, the social media platform that was formerly Twitter, the president said the aim of his visit was “to 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 added: “It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs.”
Biden voiced support for the strike by Ford, General Motors and Stellantis workers, which was entering its 12th day on Tuesday, and had announced he was dispatching his labour secretary, Julie Su, and Gene Sperling, a senior White House adviser, to help the union reach a settlement with company bosses.
That plan was withdrawn after criticism from the UAW’s president, Shawn Fain, who has also flatly rejected Trump’s efforts at wooing the support of union members.
Trump, who won significant union support in 2016 and needs to regain it if he is to prevail next year, has said workers are being betrayed by their leadership and also by Biden’s environmentally friendly policy of encouraging the three American car giants to convert to making electric vehicles.
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