President Biden will travel to Michigan on Tuesday to join a group of striking autoworkers on the picket line, a rare gesture of support for a labor union by a sitting American president.
At first glance, the visit looks like a capstone for a politician who for decades has positioned himself as a champion of the middle class, but other political forces are also at play. Mr. Biden will join workers in Wayne County a day before his predecessor and likely 2024 rival, former President Donald J. Trump, is scheduled to visit a nearby county and deliver remarks to current and former residents. union member
It’s the first time this campaign season that the two men, whose political styles are as different as their visions for the country, will compete in real time to deliver dueling messages to a powerful bloc of voters in a major swing state.
In one corner, Mr. Biden argued that his clean energy agenda, including a shift toward electric vehicles, would create new manufacturing jobs, even as companies that make batteries and other electric vehicle parts are fighting unionization of their workers.
In another, Mr. Trump channeled growing frustration among workers who fear the future of their jobs. “REMEMBER, HE WANTS TO TAKE YOUR JOBS AND GIVE THEM TO CHINA AND OTHER FOREIGN COUNTRIES.” Mr. Trump wrote about the president in a social media post on Monday, adding, “I WILL KEEP YOUR JOBS AND PAKE YOU WEALTH!!!
Officials with the same campaign, of course, pounced.
“No self-serving photo op can erase four years of Trump’s abandonment of union workers and siding with his ultrarich friends,” said Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign. , in a statement.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser for Mr. Trump, whose presidential visit shows he is on the defensive.
“This underscores the reality of how dangerous Biden’s political stance is: a state that you want to convince Democrats is safe blue, to talk to a constituency that you want to convince Democrats is safe in their camp ,” Mr. Miller said in an interview.
At the White House, Mr. Biden’s advisers insisted his visit had nothing to do with his predecessor, although they said Mr. Biden’s appearance would certainly contrast with Mr. Trump’s planned visit to Drake Enterprises in Macomb County.
Michigan is seen as a critical state for Democrats in 2024. While Michigan was one of Mr. Trump’s most surprising victories in 2016, Mr. Biden carried the state in 2020.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden is expected to appear with Shawn Fain, the president of the United Auto Workers union, who extended the invitation to the president last week. Mr. has no plan. Trump to meet with Mr. Fain, who publicly criticized the former president’s plans to travel to Michigan.
“We can’t continue to elect billionaires and millionaires who don’t have any understanding of what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” Mr. Fain said. last week
In May, the UAW, which typically backs Democratic presidential candidates, withheld its endorsement of Mr. Biden’s re-election, citing concerns over the electric vehicle transition.
Just a month ago, the administration proposed the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations, which would ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars will be all-electric by 2032, up from just 5.8 percent today.
Presidents are generally expected to be neutral mediators between striking workers and the companies they work for. On Monday, however, Mr. Biden told reporters that he stood firm with the union, calling for higher wages, shorter work hours and expanded benefits from three Detroit automakers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler.
“I think the UAW gave an incredible amount when the auto industry was going under,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the 2008 financial crisis, when autoworkers agreed to the contract. of concessions when several car companies went bankrupt. “They gave everything from their pensions, and they saved the auto industry. I think now that the industry is roaring, they should share in the benefit of that.”
Since the strike began on Sept. 15, Mr. Biden has called on companies and workers to reach an agreement to avoid a ripple effect through the economy that could raise auto prices and disrupt supply chains. .
“For generations, autoworkers have sacrificed so much to keep the industry alive and strong, especially during the economic crisis and pandemic,” Mr. Biden said the day the strike began. “Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create.”
Karine Jean-Pierre, the president’s press secretary, declined to say Monday what provisions Mr. Biden would support in a new contract.
“What we’ve said over and over is that we believe there’s an opportunity here for a win-win agreement,” Ms. Jean-Pierre.
Since taking office, Mr. Biden has promised to be “the most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history,” as he said in 2021, but his policies are sometimes in conflict with labor groups. In December, he signed legislation that imposed an agreement between railroad companies and workers locked in a bitter dispute. The bill averted a strike that could have slowed the economy before the holiday season, but it also stymied the efforts of workers and advocates fighting for provisions such as guaranteed rest time and paid sick leave.
Other modern presidents have struggled to find middle ground between employers and employees.
In 1952, President Harry S. Truman tried to avert a strike by the United Steelworkers of America by nationalizing the steel industry, but was met only with a lawsuit from the steel companies.
Ten years later, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that gave federal employees the right to bargain collectively, but he warned flight engineers and pilots against striking that same year, telling them it would be too damaging to the economy.
In 1981, President Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, undermining union efforts by arguing that federal workers were violating a labor oath not to strike against the government. The decision traumatized the labor movement for decades.
Mr. Biden’s trip to Michigan is part of a week-long gantlet for Mr. Biden, who hosted a summit with Pacific island leaders on Monday before beginning a three-day sprint across the country today. week, starting in Wayne County, which includes Detroit .
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden plans to travel to San Francisco, where he will hold a campaign reception and, on Wednesday, host a meeting with advisers. to develop policy recommendations on science, technology and innovation.
On Thursday, he is scheduled to deliver remarks centered on the Democratic state of Arizona, an appearance expected to be an implicit rejection of the Republican debate and Mr. Trump’s campaign activities. He will also honor the legacy of John McCain, the longtime Republican senator from Arizona who died of brain cancer in 2018 and was often Mr. McCain’s foil. Trump.