Major political forces clash in Michigan as UAW strike draws Biden in historic visit to picket line

When the autoworkers union authorized its leadership to go on strike, it wasn't clear what sort of implications the move would have on Michigan or in the auto industry.

But now on Day 12 of an unprecedented strike against all three Detroit automakers, the UAW's aggressive negotiations have not only turned eyes toward Michigan amid another major labor dispute between a union and industry but has also placed the state in the crosshair of major political winds.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden will join picketers in Metro Detroit. While presidents in the past have flown their flag in support of unions during collective bargaining, rarely has one so closely tied themselves to their cause.

"President Biden’s visit to Michigan, home of the Big Three, to support our world-class autoworkers is historic," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a statement. "The president is committed to strengthening our workforce and economy by bringing jobs home from overseas, reversing trends of the previous administration that lost jobs." 

But Biden's visit may not just be about supporting workers. Donald Trump, a possible foe in the 2024 general election, intends on speaking ot union members later this week as well.

While Democrats have historically been the party of labor members and working class folks, Republicans have increasingly scored a larger share of votes from that demographic. How the group votes in the next election could decide not just how Michigan votes - but also how the country votes. 

MORE: Striking UAW members fight man outside Stellantis plant claiming he yelled racial slurs

Other Midwest states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which are considered key electoral battlegrounds in the general election also have large blue collar workforces, making visits by Biden and Trump this week not random.

"He believes there could be a win-win agreement here, but he is always going to stand on the side of workers, always," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. 

RELATED: These plants joined the picket line Friday

What do we know about Biden's visit?

It's not clear where the president will join picketers, but there are facilities around Metro Detroit where workers have walked off the job. The largest may be the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, where union members there were the first to walk off the line after being called upon by President Shawn Fain.

Fain invited Biden to join him and other picketers last week after he ramped up the pressure on the auto companies by calling on more strikes. 

On Monday, Biden's press secretary declined to give details about the historic visit.

According to Biden's daily travel schedule, he's expected to arrive in Wayne County at noon and will be here until 5 p.m.


How long could the UAW strike last? Here's how much strike pay the union has saved

The UAW strike could last for several months, based on the strategy that union president Shawn Fain has implemented -- which could spell major problems for Detroit's Big Three.

Where negotiations stand

The UAW has made its greatest strides with Ford. The UAW has said its progress with the automaker spared it from further walk-outs last week after Fain gave the Detroit three a deadline for serious progress.

So far, Ford has offered a 20% wage increase, an end to tiered workers, the conversion of temporary workers after 90 days, and cost-of-living-adjustments that will protect against inflation based on a formula set in 2008. It's also offered five weeks of vacation for some workers and two weeks of parental leave.

They've also proposed a right to strike if any plants owned by Ford are threatened with closing.

MORE: Here's where negotiations stand

GM and Stellantis haven't seen as much progress, also offering 20% wage increases but without the previous COLA formulas and end to tiered employees.

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