President Biden on Friday sided firmly with the striking United Auto Workers, sending two of his top employees to Detroit and calling on America’s three largest auto companies to share their profits with employees whose wages and benefits he said have been rising for years were unfairly shortened.

In brief remarks from the White House hours after the union launched a so-called targeted strike, Mr. Biden acknowledged that automakers had made “significant offers” during contract negotiations but left no doubt about his intention to make good on a 2020 promise to always have the backing of the unions.

“For generations, autoworkers have sacrificed so much to keep the industry alive and strong, especially during the economic crisis and pandemic,” Mr. Biden said. “Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they have created.”

Mr. Biden said that Julie Su, the acting labor secretary, and Gene Sperling, a top White House economic adviser, would travel immediately to Michigan to try to bring both sides back to the negotiating table. But he said automakers “should go further to ensure that record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”

For decades, Mr. Biden has been an uncompromising supporter of unions, even rejecting the approach of some Democrats when it comes to balancing the interests of corporate America and the labor movement.

In recent years, he has helped polls show a resurgence in support for unions as younger Americans in new economy workplaces push for the right to unionize in the workplace. Mr. Biden declares in virtually every speech he gives that “unions built the middle class.”

“This was the most pro-union statement from a White House in decades, if not longer,” Eddie Vale, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked for years at the AFL-CIO, said after the president’s remarks.

The president’s decision to side with the union without much reservation is likely to provoke strong criticism from various quarters. Earlier in the day – ahead of the president’s comments at the White House – Suzanne P. Clark, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce, issued a sharp statement blaming Mr Biden for the strike.

“The UAW strike, and indeed the ‘Summer of Strikes,’ is the natural result of the Biden administration’s ‘whole of government’ approach to encouraging unionization at all costs,” said Ms. Clark, the president of the country’s largest business lobbying group.

She predicted the strike would have “far-reaching negative consequences for our economy.”

And in a possible preview of a rematch with former President Donald J. Trump, NBC on Friday aired part of an interview in which Mr. Trump equally strongly sided with the auto companies and against the unions.

“The auto workers won’t have jobs, Kristen, because all of these cars are made in China,” Trump said in an interview that aired Sunday on the network’s “Meet the Press.” “The auto workers are being sold out by their leadership, and their leadership should support Trump.”

Friday’s UAW strike is in some ways a broader test of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda that goes beyond his pro-union stance. It also touches on his demand for higher wages for the middle class; its climate-driven push to reshape the future of electric vehicles for automotive companies; and his call for higher taxes on the rich. The focus of the strike is in Michigan, a state the president effectively must win in 2024 to remain in the Oval Office.

“This is about rebuilding the middle class and rebuilding things,” Mr. Vale said. “There is green energy, technology and jobs. You have important states for the election. So all of this is kind of in a vortex here.”

At the White House, Mr. Biden’s advisers believe the fight between auto companies and their workers will underscore many of the president’s arguments about the need to reduce income inequality, the benefits of empowered workers and the increase in profits for companies like automakers that they can do afford higher wages.

This approach is at the heart of the economic argument that Mr. Biden and his campaign plan to make next year. But it sometimes conflicts with the president’s other priorities, including a shift to electric vehicles.

Many unions see Mr. Biden’s push for battery-powered cars instead of internal combustion engines as a threat to workers who have worked for decades to build gasoline-powered cars. Unions also want factories that make electric cars – most of which are not unionized – to receive higher wages and benefits.

So far, Mr. Biden has avoided the question of whether his push for a green auto industry will hasten the decline of unions. But Friday’s comments are a sign that he remains committed to the political organizations that have been at the center of his governing coalition for years.

In his remarks on Friday, he noted the tension associated with the technological transition from one type of propulsion to another.

“I believe the transition should be fair and a win-win for auto workers and auto companies,” he said. But he added: “I also believe the contract agreement must lead to a vibrant ‘Made in America’ future that promotes good, strong, middle-class jobs where workers can raise families with the UAW at their heart.” our economy remains, and where the big three companies continue to lead in innovation, excellence, quality and leadership.”

The targeted attack is designed to disrupt one of America’s oldest industries, at a time when Mr. Biden is sharpening the contrast between what rivals and allies call “Bidenomics” and a Republican plan that the president warns is a A darker version of trickle-down economics mainly benefits the rich.

“Their plan – MAGAnomics – is more extreme than anything America has ever seen before,” Mr Biden said on Thursday, hours before the union voted to strike.

Mr. Biden was joined on Friday by several more liberal members of his party who attacked automakers and stood by striking workers.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, issued a fundraising appeal in which she accused companies of refusing to “meet the demands of workers negotiating for better wages” despite having paid “nearly a quarter of a billion over the last decade “earned a profit in dollars.” .”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, visited striking Jeep workers at a Toledo plant that makes the popular Wrangler sport utility vehicle and said: “Ohioans stand in solidarity with our state’s auto workers and demand the three of them “The big car manufacturers respect the work they do to make these companies successful.”

How Mr. Biden handles the strike and its aftermath could have a significant impact on his re-election hopes. In a CNN poll earlier this month, only 39 percent of people approved of his job as president, and 58 percent said his policies had made the economic situation in the United States worse, not better.

The fact that the strike is focused on Michigan is also crucial. Mr. Biden won the state in 2020 with just over 50 percent of the vote against Mr. Trump. Without the state’s 16 electoral votes, Mr. Biden would not have defeated his rival.

Unlike previous strikes involving rail workers or air traffic controllers, Mr. Biden has no specific legal authority to intervene. However, he is not exactly an observer either.

Shortly before the strike vote, Mr. Biden called Shawn Fain, the president of the UAW, and top auto executives. Aides said the president told the parties to ensure workers receive a fair contract and urged both sides to remain at the negotiating table.

Economists say a prolonged strike, if it drags on for weeks or even months, could be a blow to the American economy, especially in the middle of the country.

Nevertheless, the president remains undeterred in his policies towards unions and the environment. In a Labor Day speech in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden reiterated both his vision of a “transition to an electric vehicle future made in America” — which he said would protect jobs — and his firm belief in unions.

“You know, there are a lot of politicians in this country who don’t know how to pronounce the word ‘union,’” he said. “They talk about work, but they don’t say ‘union.’ It is “union.” I’m one of the – I’m proud to say “union.” I’m proud to be the most pro-union president.”

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