Biden urges ‘fair agreement’ between UAW and Detroit automakers that avoids plant closures

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Speaking in front of a backdrop of American-made vehicles and a UAW sign, President Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate, speaks about new proposals to protect U.S. jobs during a campaign stop in Warren, Michigan, Sept. 9, 2020.

Leah Millis | Reuters

DETROIT – President Joe Biden is calling for a “fair agreement” between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers that avoids “painful” plant closures, as the sides engage in contentious contract negotiations for roughly 150,000 unionized U.S. auto workers.

Biden – touted as the “most pro-union president” – said Monday that the negotiations provide a “win-win opportunity” for all sides, while calling for a “fair transition to a clean energy future.” He also hailed the union’s role in creating the American middle class, which he said these new contracts should sustain.

“As the Big Three auto companies and the United Auto Workers come together — one month before the expiration of their contract — to negotiate a new agreement, I want to be clear about where I stand. I’m asking all sides to work together to forge a fair agreement,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

Biden’s statement comes a month ahead of current four-year deals between the UAW and General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis expiring at 11:59 p.m. ET Sept. 14. It also comes months after UAW President Shawn Fain said the union was withholding a reelection endorsement for Biden until the union’s concerns about the auto industry’s transition to all-electric vehicles are addressed.

Biden also said the sides should “take every possible step to avoid painful plant closings,” which may be easier said than done, as the union pushes for hefty pay increases and Stellantis has already indefinitely idled an Illinois assembly plant earlier this year.

The UAW considered Biden’s statement a win, as union leaders such as Fain have been calling for a “just transition” to all-electric vehicles, which threaten UAW jobs.

“At this critical moment in negotiations, we appreciate President Biden’s support for strong contracts that ensure good paying union jobs now and pave the way for a just transition to an EV future,” Fain said in a statement.

EVs can be built with less manual labor. There also are major concerns regarding how the pay, benefits and organizing of joint venture battery plants between the automakers and battery suppliers will impact the union and its members.

GM, Ford and Stellantis said in statements they continue to bargain in good faith with the union for contracts that benefit the workers and assist in the competitiveness of the companies.

“We agree it is critical for all sides to work together on a fair labor contract – a contract that provides job security and supports good wages and benefits for our team members while enabling companies to compete successfully domestically and globally,” GM said.



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