U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and auto companies in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on September 15, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden stressed that workers should be fairly compensated as auto companies make record profits in a speech from the White House Friday about the United Auto Workers strike.
“The companies have made some significant offers,” Biden said. “But I believe they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”
Biden said he is dispatching Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House Senior Advisor Gene Sperling to Detroit to help mediate negotiations. The pair have been involved with the talks up to now, Biden said.
“Auto companies have seen record profits including the last few years because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of the UAW workers,” Biden said. “Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with the workers.”
Nearly 13,000 auto workers went on strike when the UAW failed to reach a contract agreement with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis Thursday night.
Workers are striking at GM’s midsize truck and full-size van plant in Wentzville, Missouri; Ford’s Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV plant in Wayne, Michigan; and Stellantis’ Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio. For Ford, UAW President Shawn Fain said only workers in paint and final assembly will be on strike.
The Biden Administration has played a role in resolving several union disputes, including the dockworkers contract negotiations earlier this month and averting the rail workers strike last year. Unlike the rail workers strike though Biden does not have legal authority to intervene, instead he has urged both sides to stay at the negotiating table.
The strike places Biden in a tough position. He’s branded himself as “the most pro-union president in American history” but the UAW demands are in part a response to his electric vehicle policies, which the union says will cost jobs. Proposed Environmental Protection Agency standards for 2027-2032 call for 67% of new vehicles to be electric by the end of the timeframe, in part resulting in a 56% emissions cut.
The UAW, which represents about 146,000 workers across Ford, GM and Stellantis, has historically supported Democrats and endorsed Biden in 2020, but they are the only major union that has yet to endorse the president for re-election.
The UAW is asking for 40% hourly pay increases, a reduced 32-hour workweek, a shift back to traditional pensions, the elimination of compensation tiers and a restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, among other items including enhanced retiree, vacation and family leave benefits.
The companies made record proposals to address some of the UAW’s ambitious demands but it hasn’t been enough to sway the union. Automakers have offered wage increases of roughly 20%, cost-of-living adjustments, altered profit-sharing bonuses, and enhanced vacation and family leave.
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