President Joe Biden said he was speaking to the United Auto Workers union, which is locked in contentious negotiations with three major automakers over a new contract, and expressed worries about a potential strike.
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden said he was speaking to the United Auto Workers union, which is locked in contentious negotiations with three major automakers over a new contract, and expressed worries about a potential strike.
“I’ve been talking to the UAW. Obviously, I’m concerned,” Biden told reporters on Friday during his vacation near Lake Tahoe, speaking hours after the union said the rank and file workers at Detroit’s legacy automakers voted to authorize a strike if needed, a move intended to increase their leverage in talks.
Biden has urged carmakers to avoid plant closings and ensure any necessary job transitions take place in the same factories and communities.
“I think that there should be a circumstance where the jobs that are being displaced, replaced with new jobs, the first choice should go to the UAW members who had the jobs, and the salaries should be commensurate,” he said.
Significant differences between the union and General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV, which owns the Jeep and Ram brands, on pay, benefits and the transitioning to electric vehicles have raised worries about a work stoppage after the current contract expires on Sept. 14.
Biden’s comments on Friday underscore concern within the administration about a strike or lockout that threatens to halt positive momentum on the economy.
Biden has spent the summer touting his economic agenda, dubbed “Bidenomics,” arguing that his policies have brought high-paying jobs for US workers and spurred growth. It’s part of an effort to reverse voters’ poor perceptions of his handling of the economy ahead of next year’s election.
Read more: What’s at Stake as US Auto Workers Threaten to Strike: QuickTake
Biden weighed in on the talks earlier this month, urging both sides to work toward a “fair agreement.”
Last month, he met with UAW President Shawn Fain when the union’s leaders were at the White House to brief senior staff on the talks, according to a White House official.
The union endorsed Biden in 2020, but has yet to do so for his reelection bid, amid concerns over the administration’s push toward electric vehicles.
Fain, in an interview with Bloomberg News, warned that Biden and Democrats need to do more to support the UAW’s fight for higher wages at battery plants or else they will be vulnerable to Republican claims the EVs are eliminating good-paying auto jobs.
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