WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday dispatched two of his top aides to Detroit to help resolve the strike by unionized autoworkers, expressing sympathy for the union by suggesting that the Big 3 automakers should share their “record profits.”
“No one wants to strike,” the Democratic president said in brief remarks at the White House. “But I respect workers’ right to use their options under the collective bargaining system and I understand the workers’ frustration.”
The United Auto Workers announced a targeted strike at three factories after talks broke down with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Biden said he is sending Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling to Detroit to help reach a “win-win” contract for the companies and their employees.
Biden said he called during the first day of negotiations and encouraged both sides to stay at the table as long as possible.
“The companies have made some significant offers,” Biden said. “But I believe they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”
Members of the United Auto Workers union began picketing at a General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Ford factory in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit; and a Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio. It is the first time in the union’s 88-year history that all three companies were targeted simultaneously.
Transcript of Biden’s remarks:
“I’ll be very brief. I wanted to talk very briefly about the auto strike. I’d like to say a few words about the contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and the big three auto companies.
And I’ve been in touch with both parties over, since this began over the last few weeks.
And over the last the past decade, auto companies have seen record profits, including in the last few years, because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of the UAW workers. But those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.
Just as the Treasury Department has released a report pointing out that – the most comprehensive report ever – dealing with how unions are good for both union workers and nonunion workers and the overall economy.
Unions raise workers’ wages, they said, incomes, increase homeownership, increase retirement savings, increase access to critical benefits like sick leave and childcare, and reduce inequality, all of which strengthen our economy for all workers. That’s because unions raise standards across the workplaces and entire industries, pushing up wages and strengthening benefits for everyone.
That’s why strong unions are critical to a growing economy and growing it from the middle out, the bottom up, not the top down.
That’s especially true as we transition to a clean energy future, which are in the process of doing.
I believe that transition should be fair and a win-win for–, excuse me, for autoworkers and auto companies.
But I also believe the contract agreement must lead to a vibrant made in America future that promotes good, strong middle-class jobs that workers can raise a family on.
The UAW remains at the heart of our economy, and where the big three companies continue to lead in innovation, excellence, quality and leadership.
Last night, after negotiations broke down, the UAW announced the targeted strike at a few big three auto plants. Let’s be clear. No one wants a strike. Say it again. No one wants a strike. But I respect workers’ right to use their options on the collective bargaining system. And I understand the workers’ frustration. Over generations autoworkers sacrificed so much to keep the industry alive and strong, especially through the economic crisis and the pandemic. Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they help create for an enterprise.
I do appreciate that the parties have been working round the clock, and when I first called them at the very first day of their negotiation, I said, ‘Please stay at the table as long as you can to try to work this out’. And they’ve been around the clock and the companies have made some significant offers.
But I believe they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW. Let me say that again. Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW. And just as we are building an economy of the future, we need labor agreements for the future.
It’s my hope that the parties can return to the negotiation table to forge a win-win agreement.
To continue our active engagement, I’m dispatching two members of my team to Detroit; Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House Senior Adviser Gene Sperling, both of whom have been involved up to now, to offer their full support for the parties and reaching a contract.
The bottom line is that autoworkers helped create America’s middle class. They deserve a contract that sustains them in the middle class. So thank you very much at all I’m gonna say. Thank you.”