President Joe Biden touted his administration’s progress in promoting American-made automobiles and other manufactured goods produced by union labour as the future of US industry as he scored a coveted endorsement from the United Autoworkers Union on Wednesday.
Mr Biden, whose allies have billed him as the most pro-union of all American presidents, praised UAW members for having stood up for their right to share in their employers’ success during their recent strike as he spoke from the stage at the UAW’s annual meeting in Washington.
“You made sure the future of the world will be made in America,” he told the assembled autoworkers, adding that his administration has pushed for stricter enforcement of “buy American, hire American” requirements in federal contracting.
He also said the autoworkers’ success at forcing major automakers to negotiate better union contracts has spread to other, non-union manufacturers, and has created what he called a “UAW bump” in wages across the entire industry.
“Because of you, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, [Tesla] all gave their workers double-digit raises. Because of you, workers across the country have seen the largest wage increases for workers building cars and trucks, and many other transportation equipment in nearly 30 years,” he said, adding that he believes labour unions produce “the best-skilled workers in the world”.
Mr Biden, who last year became the first US president to walk a picket line when he joined striking autoworkers outside a Michigan auto plant in September, said that if he were to be in a fight, he’d want to be in the fight with unionised autoworkers.
“We have a big fight in front of us... we’re fundamentally changing the economy in this country,” he said, before closing his remarks by thanking the autoworkers for their endorsement.
“I could not be more proud. I’m honoured that you’ve chosen to stand with me,” he said.
The UAW endorsement of Mr Biden comes after months of speculation over whether the powerful auto union would stand behind the 46th president.
But when he stepped up to introduce Mr Biden on Wednesday, UAW president Shawn Fain appeared to leave no doubt that Mr Biden had done more than enough to garner the autoworkers’ seal of approval.
Mr Fain contrasted Mr Biden’s visit to the Wayne County, Michigan picket line last fall with a publicity stunt by Mr Trump, who he slammed for having visited a non-union shop and “trashed our union” at the invitation of that plant’s owners.
He pointed out that Mr Trump had made that controversial visit as a candidate for a second, non-consecutive term, not as president, and said Mr Trump “did nothing, not a damn thing” to support striking workers during his four years in the White House.
Mr Biden, by contrast, “heard the call, and he stood up and he showed up,” said Mr Fain, who praised Mr Biden for having “joined us in solidarity on the picket line” and pointed out that no other president had ever picketed with striking workers.
Mr Trump is a “scab,” he said, using a pejorative for a non-union worker who crosses a picket line to take the job of a striking worker.
“Donald Trump is a billionaire and that’s who he represents. If Donald Trump ever worked in an auto plant, he wouldn’t be a UAW member. He’d be a company man trying to squeeze the American worker,” Mr Fain continued, adding that the 45th president “stands against everything we stand for as a union and as a society”.
The UAW leader said the choice between the two men was “clear”.
“Joe Biden bet on the American worker, while Donald Trump blamed the American worker,” he said. “So if our endorsement has to be earned, Joe Biden has earned it.”