United Auto Workers retiree Kirk Gillenwaters figured that if an American president ever joined a picket line “it would be Joe Biden because Joe Biden has supported unions since he’s been in office.”
The president, wearing a UAW baseball cap, visited striking UAW workers at a General Motors parts distribution warehouse near Detroit on Tuesday. UAW President Shawn Fain accompanied Biden.
The Associated Press called the president’s appearance “a demonstration of support for organized labor apparently unparalleled in presidential history.”
“You deserve the significant raise you need,” Biden told strikers through a bullhorn. Before departing, he walked around the picket line, fist-bumping with obviously pleased workers carrying picket signs.
He urged them to “stick with” the strike, according to the AP.
On Wednesday night, former president Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is supposed to skip the second GOP candidate debate to appear at Drake Enterprises, a non-union Detroit-area auto parts plant. He is scheduled to speak to what he his campaign says will be approximately 500 current or former union members.
The contrast between the two visits is glaring, according to Gillenwaters. “We really need to hit that hard – we need to blast Trump completely,” said Gillenwaters, who belonged to UAW Local 862 at a Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant. He is president of the Kentucky brancha> of the Alliance for Retired Americans.
Because of the almost certain Trump-Biden rematch next year, Gillenwaters urged union leaders to point out the clear difference between their Michigan appearances to rank-and-file members, notably “to Trump supporters in our unions.”
He said while Biden stood with striking UAW workers on a picket line, Trump plans “to go to a non-union plant with a captive audience and try to fool the working men and women of this country, especially those in organized labor.”
Though the UAW has yet to endorse Biden, the AFL-CIO did last June, “the earliest the AFL-CIO has ever voted to endorse in a presidential election.”
Even so, Fain invited Biden to visit the picket line. Also, he has blasted Trump, declaring, “Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers. We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
Said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler of the Biden endorsement: “There’s absolutely no question that Joe Biden is the most pro-union president in our lifetimes. From bringing manufacturing jobs home to America to protecting our pensions and making historic investments in infrastructure, clean energy and education, we’ve never seen a president work so tirelessly to rebuild our economy from the bottom up and middle out. We’ve never seen a president more forcefully advocate for workers’ fundamental right to join a union. Now, it’s time to finish the job. The largest labor mobilization in history begins today, supercharged by the excitement and enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of union volunteers who will work tirelessly to re-elect a president they know has our backs and will always fight for us.”