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Biden to Join UAW Strike Picket Line   09/26 06:18

   President Joe Biden's decision to stand alongside United Auto Workers 
pickets on Tuesday on the 12th day of their strike against major carmakers 
underscores an allegiance to labor unions that appears to be unparalleled in 
presidential history.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden's decision to stand alongside United 
Auto Workers pickets on Tuesday on the 12th day of their strike against major 
carmakers underscores an allegiance to labor unions that appears to be 
unparalleled in presidential history.

   Experts in presidential and U.S. labor history say they cannot recall an 
instance when a sitting president has joined an ongoing strike, even during the 
tenures of the more ardent pro-union presidents such as Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Theodore Roosevelt invited labor leaders alongside 
mine operators to the White House amid a historic coal strike in 1902, a 
decision that was seen at the time as a rare embrace of unions as Roosevelt 
tried to resolve the dispute.

   Lawmakers often appear at strikes to show solidarity with unions, and during 
his 2020 Democratic primary campaign, Biden and other presidential hopefuls 
joined a picket line of hundreds of casino workers in Las Vegas who were 
pushing for a contract with The Palms Casino Resort.

   But sitting presidents, who have to balance the rights of workers with 
disruptions to the economy, supply chains and other facets of everyday life, 
have long wanted to stay out of the strike fray -- until Biden.

   "This is absolutely unprecedented. No president has ever walked a picket 
line before," said Erik Loomis, a professor at the University of Rhode Island 
and an expert on U.S. labor history. Presidents historically "avoided direct 
participation in strikes. They saw themselves more as mediators. They did not 
see it as their place to directly intervene in a strike or in labor action."

   Biden's trip to join a picket line in the suburbs of Detroit is the most 
significant demonstration of his pro-union bona fides, a record that includes 
vocal support for unionization efforts at facilities and executive 
actions that promoted worker organizing. He also earned a joint endorsement of 
the major unions earlier this year and has avoided southern California for 
high-dollar fundraisers amid the writers' and actors' strikes in Hollywood.

   During the ongoing UAW strike, Biden has argued that the auto companies have 
not yet gone far enough to satisfy the union, although White House officials 
have repeatedly declined to say whether the president endorses specific UAW 
demands such as a 40% hike in wages and full-time pay for a 32-hour work week.

   "I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the automobile 
industry was going under. They gave everything from their pensions on, and they 
saved the automobile industry," Biden said Monday from the White House. He 
stressed that the workers should benefit from the carmakers' riches "now that 
the industry is roaring back."

   Biden and other Democrats are more aggressively touting the president's 
pro-labor credentials at a time when former President Donald Trump is trying to 
chip away at union support in critical swing states where the constituency 
remains influential, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. Biden is also leaning 
in on his union support at a time when labor enjoys broad support from the 
public, with 67% of Americans approving of labor unions in an August Gallup 

   Instead of participating in the second Republican primary debate on 
Wednesday, Trump will head to Michigan to meet with striking autoworkers, 
seeking to capitalize on discontent over the state of the economy and anger 
over the Biden administration's push for more electric vehicles -- a key 
component of its clean-energy agenda.

   "If it wasn't for President Trump, Joe Biden would be giving autoworkers the 
East Palestine treatment and saying that his schedule was too busy," said Trump 
campaign adviser Jason Miller, referring to the small Ohio town that is still 
grappling with the aftermath of a February train derailment. Biden said he 
would visit the community but so far has not.

   White House officials dismissed the notion that Trump forced their hand and 
noted that Biden was headed to Michigan at the request of UAW President Shawn 
Fain, who last week invited the sitting president to join the strikers.

   "He is pro-UAW, he is pro-workers, that is this president," White House 
press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. "He stands by union workers, 
and he is going to stand with the men and women of the UAW."

   Yet the UAW strike, which expanded into 20 states last week, remains a 
dilemma for the Biden administration since a part of the workers' grievances 
include concerns about a broader transition to electric vehicles. The shift 
away from gas-powered vehicles has worried some autoworkers because electric 
versions require fewer people to manufacture and there is no guarantee that 
factories that produce them will be unionized.

   Carolyn Nippa, who was walking the picket line Monday at the GM parts 
warehouse in Van Buren Township, Michigan, was ambivalent about the president's 
advocacy for electric vehicles, even as she said Biden was a better president 
than Trump for workers. She said it was "great that we have a president who 
wants to support local unions and the working class."

   "I know it's the future. It's the future of the car industry," Nippa said. 
"I'm hoping it doesn't affect our jobs."

   Still, other pickets remained more skeptical about Biden's visit Tuesday.

   Dave Ellis, who stocks parts at the distribution center, said he's happy 
Biden wants to show people he's behind the middle class. But he said the visit 
is just about getting more votes.

   "I don't necessarily believe that it's really about us," said Ellis, who 
argued that Trump would be a better president for the middle class than Biden 
because Trump is a businessman.

   The Biden administration has no formal role in the negotiations, and the 
White House pulled back a decision from the president earlier this month to 
send two key deputies to Michigan after determining it would be more productive 
for the advisers, Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, to monitor 
talks from Washington.

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