Former US President and 2024 Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at the CWA (Concerned Women for America) Summit 2023 in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2023.
Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump plans to visit Detroit next week to speak with current and former union members instead of attending the Republican primary debate, his campaign told CNBC on Monday.
A campaign spokesperson confirmed reporting in The New York Times that Trump, the clear front-runner in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, intends to counterprogram the second primary debate as his rivals compete to overtake him.
The former president’s travel plans came just days after thousands of members of the United Auto Workers went on strike at three major plants after the union and Detroit carmakers failed to reach an agreement.
A campaign source said Trump wants to speak to a crowd of more than 500 current and former union members that will include not only autoworkers but also plumbers, pipefitters and electricians.
But the labor union itself reacted strongly to news of Trump’s latest campaign strategy.
“Every fiber of our union is poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement shared with CNBC.
“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 make ends meet and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” Fain said in a statement. .
Fain previously said Trump’s second term in the White House would be a “disaster.”
Trump’s expected absence from the upcoming debate, set for September 27 at the Reagan Library in California, did not come as a huge surprise. He skipped the first major debate last month, choosing instead to sit for a pre-taped interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired as the debate began.
The plan to undermine the second debate shows Trump once again shrugging off his GOP rivals, favoring instead the idea of positioning himself for a general election rematch against incumbent President Joe Biden, a vocal champion of the US labor union.
In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday, Trump accused UAW leadership of failing its members even as he urged the union to endorse him.
“The autoworkers have been sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” Trump told NBC’s Kristen Welker.
Trump’s public statements about the strike have largely focused on electric vehicles, a priority of the Biden administration that Trump says will destroy the US auto industry and empower China.
While the main demands of autoworkers are to get more — and more equal — compensation, Trump’s attempt to put EVs at the center of the dispute shows how pushing the transition away from gas-powered vehicles has become a political issue.
Trump’s biggest Republican rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has vetoed bipartisan pro-EV legislation in his state and vowed in a recent op-ed to “save the American car.”