The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan isn’t quite dead yet – as noted by the response of a couple of the GOP presidential hopefuls, who were quick to respond to President Joe Biden’s publicity stunt in Michigan on Tuesday. In a break from tradition, Biden joined a picket line with striking autoworkers, supporting their call for a 40 percent pay raise.
“Companies were in trouble, now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too,” Biden told the striking workers at a parts distribution center in Belleville, Michigan, owned by General Motors.
“Stick with it,” the president added.
Biden said they deserve a “lot more” than they are getting, during what was the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to striking workers in modern history. It also came a day before former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, is scheduled to speak to auto workers, while forgoing the second GOP primary debate.
The rare back-to-back events have been seen to highlight the importance of union support in next year’s presidential election, even as unions represent just a tiny fraction of the U.S. workforce.
Just 10.1 percent of U.S. workers were union members in 2022, but unions continue to maintain outsized political influence in swing states such as Michigan. Their grassroots networks are seen as a powerful influence on the “working-class” vote.
Countering the Unions
It is clear that both Biden and Trump are seeking to court union voters in battleground Michigan as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – three states he won in 2016 but lost to Biden in 2020 – but others in the GOP field are taking a stance against the unions, and accusing the president of escalating the strike against Detroit’s automakers.
Though the UAW hasn’t endorsed Biden, due to his push for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing – which is primarily conducted by nonunion labor and overseas – some Republicans already expect it to be a foregone conclusion and are going on the attack against the unions already.
“When you have the most pro-union president and he touts that he is emboldening the unions, this is what you get,” former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said during a segment on the Fox News Channel earlier this month. “When you have a president that’s constantly saying, ‘Go union! Go union,’ this is what you get. The unions get emboldened, and then they start asking for things.”
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina went even further, and as TheHill.com reported, he lauded former President Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers when asked about the UAW strike, stating, “If you strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me,”
However, it was not exactly that simple.
The off-the-cuff comment was met with a quick response from UAW President Shawn Fain, who filed a charge last week against Scott’s campaign with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and accused him of interfering with workers’ rights to engage in union activity under federal law. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which granted private sector workers the right to strike, ensures that employees can’t be fired for striking.
It would seem that Haley and Scott don’t expect union support, and they’ve focused on the economy instead. Most Americans, not just those who are union members, likely believe they deserve a lot more as well – or at least would like to see inflation addressed so that their paychecks go further.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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