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UAW endorses Biden after close look at EV-related jobs

Trump argued moving toward electric vehicles would cost workers their jobs

President Joe Biden speaks to a United Auto Workers conference at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden speaks to a United Auto Workers conference at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain on Wednesday said the union will endorse President Joe Biden in November — dealing a blow to former President Donald Trump, who had sought to gain traction from workers’ uncertainty surrounding Biden’s transition to electric vehicles.

Biden, who has proclaimed himself one of the “most pro-union presidents,” vied for the endorsement to boost his blue collar support in key swing states with large automaker roots, like Michigan and Wisconsin. 

“I don’t want to talk to you about who you like, the latest headline or the Democrats or the Republicans. I want to talk about the track record,” Fain said during the announcement. “The choice is clear — Joe Biden bet on the American worker while Donald Trump blamed the American worker.”

UAW was one of the last unions to endorse Biden in the 2020 election. Now, the UAW endorsement comes as the Biden campaign moves on to treating Trump as his presumptive Republican challenger following Trump’s New Hampshire primary win Tuesday.

“I kept my commitment as the most pro-union president ever,” Biden said in remarks to autoworkers after the announcement at a UAW conference in Washington, D.C. “Let me just say I’m honored to have your back, and you have mine. … I’ll say I was so damn proud to stand in that picket line with you.”

As the decision lingered, the union’s strike in September at three major automakers — General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler — drew appearances from Trump and Biden in Michigan. Fain criticized Trump for holding an event at a nonunion company called Drake Enterprises, while Biden had joined Fain and other strikers on a picket line the day prior.

In his endorsement speech Wednesday, Fain further criticized Trump for “doing nothing” during a 2019 General Motors strike.

“He said nothing, he did nothing — not a damn thing, because he doesn’t care about the American worker,” he said, as the crowd chanted, “Joe.” “Donald Trump is a billionaire and that’s who he represents. Donald Trump stands against everything we stand for as a union as a society.”

Fain had said in May that the endorsement delay was because of the president’s electric vehicle policies and other issues. UAW ratified contracts in November with the Big Three automakers that Fain said will ensure protections for electric vehicle and battery plant workers.

“This contract is a huge step in bringing that work back in — and not just the battery workers, it’s the electric drive motors and different parts of that industry,” Fain said in a November interview. “I’ve never been opposed to [the EV transition], we just want it to be a just transition and we don’t want workers left behind, that’s it.”

[GOP lawmakers want Trump to focus on economy, immigration

Nevertheless, Trump and Republicans in Congress assert that the Biden electric vehicle transition threatens to ship union jobs overseas and could destabilize the auto industry, bringing the debate into an area in which Biden’s critics see him as most vulnerable — the economy.

Just before the announcement, Trump said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that Biden’s career has been an “act of economic treason,” arguing that the president has been “shipping jobs overseas while taking money from foreign nations hand over fist.” In another statement, Trump said he intends to eliminate Biden’s EV policy “on day one.”

“Democrats made a choice between two traditional favorite allies of the Democrat party — they had a choice between standing with union jobs, or standing with California environmentalist billionaires,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said last week in an interview. “They chose the money over the jobs and they’re perfectly happy to throw union members under the bus … as long as it’s an electric bus.”

Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of Job Creators Network, a conservative small business advocacy group, in a statement criticized the administration’s proposed strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions for cars and trucks.

“American car companies such as Ford have already been forced to drastically scale back production due to the lack of consumer demand for electric vehicles,” Ortiz said at the time. “Union members are increasingly recognizing that Biden’s carefully honed union rhetoric is at odds with his green energy agenda that threatens their paychecks.”

Biden on Wednesday said that he’s “tired of jobs going overseas” and claimed that Trump sent labor overseas during his presidency.

“We supercharged advanced manufacturing, including electric vehicles made by union workers in America,” Biden said to the autoworkers. “The previous administration was content to sit on the sidelines and let China take all these jobs. But I won’t let that happen. … Existing union workers should have the first shot at those jobs.” 

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