White House team to go to Detroit to help resolve autoworkers strike

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A team that President Joe Biden dispatched to help resolve the strike between the United States’ largest autoworkers union and the Big Three auto companies plans to be in Detroit to support talks “early in the week,” an administration official told NBC News on Sunday.

White House adviser Gene Sperling and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su were named by the president last week to go to Detroit to help reach a deal to end the walkout by the United Auto Workers union, which began early Friday. Sperling has been serving as the point person on key issues connected to the union and the companies, and has been coordinating with Su.

“Both Sperling and Acting Secretary Su are engaging with the parties by phone, as they have for weeks, with the intention of being there early in the week,” the official said, adding that the administration was “pleased that the parties are continuing to meet as they had been before the contract expired.”

United Auto Workers members strike at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

United Auto Workers members strike at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

Su and Sperling’s goal was not to serve as mediators or intervene, but “help support the negotiations in any way the parties feel is constructive,” the official said.

On Friday, Biden said that he hoped that the UAW and Big Three returned to negotiations.

After talks collapsed Biden said that he understands workers’ frustrations that as automobile companies register “record profits,” these haven’t “been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.”

“Let’s be clear, no one wants a strike,” he said. “But I respect workers’ right to use their options under the collective bargaining system.”

The strike is a particular challenge for Biden, who has called himself “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” While the UAW has historically supported Democrats like the president, former President Donald Trump won important backing from blue-collar autoworkers.

Before the strike was declared, UAW President Shawn Fain said a walkout would force Biden and other politicians pick a side when it comes to organized labor.

On Friday at midnight, about 13,000 members of the UAW walked out a General Motors site in Missouri, a Stellantis center in Ohio and a Ford assembly plant in Michigan.

If every UAW member struck immediately, the union would have enough funds to supply about 11 weeks of strike pay.

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