Biden to give pep talk about unions as UAW could go on strike next week

President Joe Biden on Wednesday is slated to praise a deal between unionized dockworkers and their employers that prevented a strike at West Coast ports, but the spotlight has shifted to the United Auto Workers union, which could strike when its contract with Detroit’s Big Three ends Sept. 14.

Ahead of a speech by Biden that’s scheduled for around 2:15 p.m. Eastern, a White House official said the agreement that was finalized last week between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and terminal operators along with other companies “represented a prime example of Bidenomics at work, reflecting workers empowered and bargaining together for the wages, benefits, and quality of life they deserve, and company owners recognizing those unions’ right to organize.”

From MarketWatch’s archives (June 2023): West Coast dockworkers and employers reach tentative deal, allaying shipping-delay concerns

It has been a summer of strikes in the U.S., with a joint strike by Hollywood actors and screenwriters getting much of the attention.

Read more: What striking city workers have in common with striking Hollywood actors — and what they don’t

Biden has played down the potential for a UAW strike, which could cost the three automakers — Ford
General Motors
and Chrysler parent Stellantis
— nearly a billion dollars, according to an Anderson Economic Group estimate.

“No, I’m not worried about a strike until it happens. I don’t think it’s going to happen,” the president told reporters on Monday, which was Labor Day.

Biden has repeatedly described himself as “the most pro-union president,” but he drew flak from organized labor and its supporters in December when he signed into law a bill that prevented a railroad strike by imposing a deal on workers.

“Biden cannot make that mistake again,” said the Revolving Door Project, which aims to counter industry influence on the federal government, in a newsletter on Wednesday. “If unapologetic support for unions and pro-labor administrative actions are the centerpiece of his campaign, Biden can galvanize the working and middle classes to back him in the polls next fall.”

The presidential race in 2024 could be a rematch of 2020’s contest between Biden and former President Donald Trump, who has won over some union households that historically have backed Democrats like Biden rather than Republicans.

Biden got more support than Trump from union households in the battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin in 2020, but Trump got more support from such households in Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to Edison Research exit polls.

The UAW’s demands include the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires, an end to tiers of wages and a 32-hour week for 40 hours of pay.

See: Why United Auto Workers are fighting to end a two-tier system for wages and benefits

In July, package-delivery giant UPS
and the Teamsters union reached a deal that averted a strike.

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