Joe Biden claims to be the most pro-union president in U.S. history. Unfortunately for him, the unions aren't impressed. This is extremely important because unions are a huge source of support for Democrats, not only contributing money to the Party, but also putting boots on the ground going door-to-door talking to voters. Losing that support would be disastrous for the Democrats, especially since they are losing support among blue-collar workers overall. The one bright spot is among union members, so they can't afford to lose that.
Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, which has gone out on strike against the big three car companies, is frustrated with Biden. Fain said that he disagrees with Biden's remark that negotiations have broken down. He said that they are ongoing. Of course, the fact that a strike was called on Friday means that they are not going well.
The unions have a lot at stake here, but so does Biden. A long strike can have severe negative effects on the economy, just when Biden needs to convince Americans that the economy is in good shape. And angering union members for his lack of full-throated support is certainly not a good thing.
Biden has been involved behind the scenes trying to broker a deal. He has been talking to both sides and trying to get them to agree. In particular, the car companies have been making record profits and the unions think they should be sharing that with their workers. Biden did say: "Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW." But the union members want more than a sound bite from him.
For example, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) marched in the Labor Day parade in Detroit. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) joined a picket line. So did Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Biden hasn't even been to Michigan. Of course, the security logistics are tougher for him, but he could have flown to Detroit and had a photo-op with Fain privately. Also, some union members feel Biden is trying to be an honest broker between the opposing sides, but they want him to be 100% on the union side and come out and state in public that the unions are right and the companies are wrong. He isn't doing that. His thinking is undoubtedly that by trying to act neutral, he can broker a deal and avert a strike, but it doesn't seem to have worked. Union members are thinking, as the song goes, "Which Side Are You On?"
Republicans are trying to exploit the strike as a wedge issue to further drive blue-collar workers away from the Democrats. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) said he supports higher wages for workers, "But there is a 6,000-pound elephant in the room: the premature transition to electric vehicles." In theory, it shouldn't matter if General Motors makes gasoline-powered cars or electric cars in its Michigan factories, but that is not how it is playing out. Many of the electric cars are being made in non-union factories in the U.S. and abroad, largely due to the stupidity of the automobile companies' management. When electric cars first appeared on the scene, they could have said: "We are going to be industry leaders in this new technology." Instead they said: "This fad will soon pass." This allowed Elon Musk to become the new industry leader. If General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis had jumped in initially with both feet and poured billions into retooling factories to make electric vehicles, Musk would never have gotten off the ground (except with his rockets).
As a consequence of this history, more electric cars means more jobs moving from unionized plants at the Big Three to nonunionized plants in the South and elsewhere. But Biden can't suddenly oppose electric cars, because environmentalists would have a conniption. They want him to be 1000% behind electric cars. They really don't care who makes them, as long as they get made. This puts Biden in a vise, with unions on one side and environmentalists on the other.
The unions aren't stupid, though. Last week, the House passed a bill that would prevent California and other states from passing laws that ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars after some date in the 2030s. The UAW opposed the bill.
Naturally, Donald Trump has gotten into the act. He said that Biden's push for electric cars amounted to a "transition to hell." He also said: "If that disastrous Biden policy is allowed to stand, the U.S. auto industry will cease to exist, and all your jobs will be sent to China. That's why there's no such thing as a fair transition to all electric cars." (V)