Biden aides seek to ease tensions with UAW as Trump.jpgw1440

Biden aides seek to ease tensions with UAW as Trump plans trip to Detroit – The Washington Post

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Senior White House aides have sought to ease tensions with the United Auto Workers union since President Biden’s comments last week inadvertently angered union leadership, according to three people who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations .

On Friday, the first day of the UAW’s strike against the nation’s three largest automakers, Biden said in the Roosevelt Room that he would send acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit “to give them their full “To offer support to the parties in reaching a contract.” Internally, Biden aides viewed the brief announcement as an innocuous gesture aimed at aiding the talks, particularly as the president marked them with strong support for the union’s demand for a better deal Wage proposal from the three major car manufacturers combined.

Two striking UAW workers at the same Ford plant, very different lives

Instead, Biden’s comments angered UAW officials, who feared that the presence of Su and Sperling would be interpreted by some workers as a sign that the government was controlling the negotiations. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre sought to clarify in her press conference later Friday that “negotiations are a matter for the parties” and that Su and Sperling “will not intervene or mediate.” UAW officials were still venting their frustration over the president’s comments to White House aides before announcing over the weekend that the administration should either send someone to join striking workers on the picket line or send no one at all, they said the people.

On Tuesday, the White House halted Sperling and Su’s trip, although by then tensions had eased enough that the parties agreed to try to send Biden aides to Detroit after this week, even without the pickets run through. Several Democratic members of Congress have joined the picket lines, and some Biden allies hope he will show up too.

The private back-and-forth over Biden’s comments, which have not been previously reported, reflects the challenge the administration faces as it tries to figure out how to deal with a historic labor strike now in its sixth day. Adding to the high political risks is the fact that former President Donald Trump, the presumptive candidate for the Republican nomination in 2024, will travel to Detroit next week, skipping a GOP primary debate to hold a rally with workers to split the union vote, long a key Democratic bloc.

Biden now faces the crucial decision of whether he or someone else in his administration should take the dramatic step of joining the UAW on the picket line — something no president appears to have done before.

White House officials are currently weighing options including a visit to the president’s picket line or that of a top adviser, although planning is still underway and no decision has been made, two people familiar with the matter said. White House spokeswoman Robyn Patterson said in a statement that the administration was not considering holding a civic event or rally. Patterson declined to comment on whether Biden or a White House official might go to the picket lines. Politico first reported that the White House is considering whether to send a top adviser to the picket lines.

While they share the goals of a strong UAW contract and defeating Trump in 2024, Biden and UAW President Shawn Fain don’t always have completely aligned goals. Biden is balancing his support for the union against the White House’s traditional role as a neutral mediator in labor disputes and his desire to protect the broader economy from a protracted strike. And Fain’s criticism of Trump – whom he has denigrated as part of the “billionaire class” – does not mean he will act like a Democratic politician marching in lockstep behind the president. Labor leaders say Fain is fully focused on maintaining the unity of his members on strike and that he must not allow divisions in his ranks over Trump and Biden to distract from this vitally important fight.

On Friday, after Biden announced Sperling and Su’s trip, Fain released a statement saying, “Workers are not afraid. Do you know who’s afraid? The corporate media is afraid. The White House is scared.” Fain later disputed the quote in an interview with reporters that evening.

The stubborn union leader leads the auto workers in a historic strike

But as Trump seeks to return to the White House, both Biden and Fain have strong incentives to work together. Labor leaders sympathetic to both leaders fear the discrepancy could become a larger symbol of Democrats’ challenges with working-class voters they cannot afford to lose in 2024 battleground states like Michigan. Biden won the state’s 16 electoral votes in 2020 by about 154,000 votes after Trump won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016. Trump is viewed by most union leaders as a disaster for workers’ rights, and they are urging the UAW and White House to reach unity as quickly as possible to prevent him from exploiting their divisions.

“Biden improved the Democrats’ performance with union voters in 2020, but the election was still razor-thin and everyone has a sinking feeling in their stomach, this is becoming a much bigger deal,” a union official said on conditions of anonymity to speak his mind to provide an open assessment of the matter.

UAW launches historic strike against three major automakers

A White House spokeswoman disputed the suggestion that the administration was considering any steps in response to Trump’s rally in the Detroit area, citing Biden’s long experience fighting for union priorities. Trump has clashed with Fain, asking UAW members to withhold their dues and accusing him of mismanaging the union, and union leaders are railing against the billionaire for opposing their priorities as a candidate and as president.

“Thanks to the President’s policies, the future of America’s auto industry will be built by American workers. If the previous administration and Republicans in Congress had their way, these automotive jobs would be moved to China,” White House spokeswoman Patterson said in a statement. “The President believes that the UAW-Big Three contract must lead to a vibrant, made-in-America automotive future that supports good, strong, middle-class jobs in which a worker can raise a family, and in which the UAW The heart of our automobile remains economics.”

White House defenders expressed frustration that the administration’s strategy was being questioned despite Biden’s strong support for union policy in general and the UAW strike in particular. Many Democrats said the president had already shown support beyond reasonable expectations by backing the UAW’s call for a better wage proposal and that Biden needed to remain a neutral party to help finalize negotiations. For this reason, they say, it is unfair to expect Biden to lead the picket lines himself.

“It’s not that it has done much damage to the economy, but if it lasts for weeks and expands, it actually could,” said Dean Baker, an administration ally at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank. “Although he has made it clear that he sympathizes with the strikers, he does not want to be seen as partisan. He wants to be able to talk to the industry and ask for an extra mile or some other big concession. So I don’t think actually being seen on the picket line really helps him.”

There are increasing signs that the strike will not be resolved any time soon. In a video posted late Monday, Fain threatened to extend the UAW strike this week unless “serious progress” toward an agreement was made by Friday. The union was at odds in a contract dispute with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis over wages, benefits, job protections and other issues. Biden is also grappling with the prospect of a government shutdown as early as midnight on October 1, which could exacerbate the challenges facing the administration.

But as much as Biden may be limited in how much he can support the UAW, Fain faces similar limitations in how much he can support the White House, according to labor experts. The UAW Account on XFor example, the social media site formerly known as Twitter retweeted numerous Democratic lawmakers who supported the union’s demands. But these posts leave no confusion about whether lawmakers are trying to take sides.

“The White House has been a great friend to the working class, more than any other president we know. But bargaining gains come from the bargaining power that comes from union members. “The most critical element to victory is the power of workers in the strike,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, who stressed she had no inside knowledge of the talks. “The White House’s interference, while well-intentioned, may be seen by some workers as a sign of weakness in their campaign or as a sign that concessions will be forthcoming.”