A momentous day arrived for the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and its ongoing strike with the Big Three as President Biden joined the picket lines in Michigan, just as Ford (F) announced a big update on an upcoming battery plant in the state.
Biden met with UAW picketers at GM's Van Buren Township parts distribution center in Michigan. "Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class built this country. The unions built the middle class," Biden said to UAW workers on strike. "Let’s keep going, you deserve what you’ve earned. And you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now."
UAW president Shawn Fain joined Biden at the picket line as well, thanking the president for joining the strike, but stopped short of endorsing Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
The White House says Biden’s visit was the first time a sitting president has visited a picket line in modern times. The move comes as his Republican rival, former President Trump, indicated he would be visiting the state as well. On Wednesday, Trump is expected to hold a rally with 500 former or current union members in Clinton Township, Mich.
The Big Three — Ford, GM, and Stellantis — put out statements ahead of Biden’s visit, though they did not criticize the president for joining the UAW strikes.
“On the first day of the strike, President Biden said UAW workers ‘deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.’ We agree and presented a record offer,” Stellantis (STLA) said on its UAW negotiations website.
GM (GM) also stated that its “focus is not on politics but continues to be on bargaining in good faith” with the UAW to reach an agreement.
Ford also issued the statement on the president’s visit, which notably is where the company’s big Michigan Assembly Plant is located. “Ford and the UAW are going to be the ones to solve this by finding creative solutions to tough issues together at the bargaining table. We have a shared interest in the long-term viability of the domestic auto industry, the industrial Midwest and good-paying manufacturing jobs in the US,” the company said.
Ford also made waves on Monday when the automaker announced that it is pausing development on its $3.5 billion battery plant in Marshall, Mich., claiming the automaker had concerns about “competitively” operating the plant.
Ford declined to say what specifically changed in its planning, but the company stated it has not made a final decision on the planned investment at the site. Note that Ford is partnering with China’s CATL to license CATL’s LFP (lithium iron phosphate) battery tech for new EVs. Ford had said in the past that it would own the battery plant, and would employ all the workers, but it is possible guidance on battery credits Ford would receive from the government changed due to Ford’s licensing agreement with CATL, leading to the pause in development.
Nonetheless, the UAW pounced on Ford’s decision, claiming it was a move to punish the union and union jobs, because of the UAW’s ongoing demands for higher wages.
“This is a shameful, barely veiled threat by Ford to cut jobs,” UAW's Fain said in a statement. “Now they want to threaten us with closing plants that aren’t even open yet. We are simply asking for a just transition to electric vehicles and Ford is instead doubling down on their race to the bottom.”