Former president Donald Trump again passed on the opportunity to participate in the second Republican primary presidential debate, opting instead to pay a visit to a car parts factory in Clinton, Michigan.
Michigan is facing a major showdown between auto workers – represented by the United Auto Workers – and the big three American car companies. Union workers are currently on strike, demanding increased wages and better working conditions.
The former commander-in-chief spoke to around 300 workers in the plant, a vast majority of whom did not belong to a union, where he ascribed the woes of the auto industry to foreign deals the he said that president Joe Biden was to blame for. He also railed against the left’s push towards more purely electric vehicles, which he said was only being made to appease environmental groups and activists while ignoring the larger segment of the U.S. auto industry, which is still heavily reliant on fuel and gas.
History of anti-union actions
However, Ron Bieber, the president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, an auto workers union, points out that Trump has “never showed up” for union workers.
Bieber said that Trump sells the lie of being the one to lend a hand to working people, but his record tells a different story.
“That record was nothing short of catastrophic for workers, highlighting an open hostility especially to union families. He never cared about our jobs. Or our wages. Or our pensions and health care. Or even our safety. Trump just cared about making his rich buddies even richer at our expense,” Bieber wrote in an opinion piece for the Detroit Free Press.
“Let’s be very clear: He doesn’t deserve the labor movement’s support — or the support of any working-class person across this country — in 2024,” the auto workers union president added.
The union also released a video showing 2017 footage of Trump promising to save the auto workers’ jobs in Ohio. “Don’t move, don’t sell your house,” the former president promised workers. However, GM did close Lordstown Assembly plant in the state, which cost thousands of workers their livelihoods.
A UAW official, Vice President for General Motors Mike Booth, echoed Bieber’s sentiments.
“Where were his rallies for striking workers when we were on the picket line in 2019? Where are the jobs he promised to return to the U.S. while on the campaign trail in 2015?” Booth wrote in an email to the Detroit Free Press.
“The proof is in the pudding. His actions in office went to enrich the very elite few while the working class of America stagnated. This stunt is another ploy to pull the wool over the eyes of the working class. Again!” Booth said.
Biden joins picket line to mixed reactions
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden joined the striking workers’ picket line a day before Trump made the trip to Michigan.
He claimed that automakers are “doing incredibly well” a fact that workers should share as well. “Guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too.” the president said.
While largely symbolic, it is rare for presidents to join picket lines, and the gesture was met with mixed reactions by workers who were there.
“I think it’s significant to have a sitting president actually come to the picket line,” GM worker Ralph Morris told news outlet E&E News, which is under Politico. “It signals the president’s office supports working-class people,” he added.
However, another worker, Sean Conley, pointed out that the White House and the Democrats’ push for electric vehicles was a “job-killer” for people like himself.
“We don’t need him. I feel like it’s a photo-op for him,” Conley said.
Tim Ramos has written for various publications, corporations, and organizations – covering everything from finance, politics, travel, entertainment, and sports – in Asia and the U.S. for more than 10 years.
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