VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — President Joe Biden told striking United Auto Workers members outside of a General Motors Co. parts distribution center on Tuesday that "you deserve a significant raise" as he became the first chief executive in more than 100 years to visit a picket line while in office.
Biden, asked whether the UAW should get the 40% raises the union initially had demanded over four years, said: "Yes, I think they should be able to bargain for that," according to a White House transcript.
Biden's remarks to union members were brief on the 12th day of the Detroit-based union's first simultaneous strike against all three Detroit automakers. The president spoke to striking workers at GM's Willow Run Redistribution Center, one of 38 parts distribution facilities owned by GM and Stellantis NV that the UAW began striking on Friday as the union escalated the work stoppage in a push for higher wages, pensions for all workers and the elimination of a two-tier pay scale.
President Joe Biden joins striking United Auto Workers on a picket line in Van Buren Township near General Motors Co.'s Willow Run Distribution Center. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain stands to the left.
"You made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot when the companies were in trouble. Now, they're doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too," Biden said to applause from the picketers. "You deserve a significant raise you need and other benefits. Let's get back what we lost, OK? ... It's time for them to step up for us."
The Democratic president later added: "Wall Street didn't build the country. The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class. That's a fact. Let's keep it going."
Biden's visit marked the first time in at least a century that a sitting president has visited a labor union's picket line, according to the White House. UAW President Shawn Fain joined Biden at the picket line.
“The CEOs think the future belongs to them,” Fain said. ”Today belongs to the autoworkers in the working class.”
“Thank you, Mr. President, for coming. We know the president will do right by the working class," the UAW president added.
After Fain spoke, Biden walked into the crowd to shake hands, bump fists and pose for selfie pictures with some of the workers before his entourage departed and headed back to Detroit Metro Airport.
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