UAW Endorses Biden for Re-election Over ‘Scab’ Trump

Labor expert Harley Shaiken says UAW leadership’s endorsement of Biden could be decisive in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania where the union has a strong presence – even though it is easy to find Trump supporters in any auto plant.

Joseph Szczesny

January 26, 2024

4 Min Read
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Biden, accompanied by UAW President Fain (far right), speaks to striking General Motors workers outside GM parts warehouse in Belleville, MI, on Sept. 26, 2023.

Labeling Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump a “scab,” UAW President Shawn Fain is attempting to present a united front in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election.

“This November, we can stand up and elect someone who wants to stand with us and support our cause. Or we can elect someone who will divide us and fight us every step of the way,” Fain says during this week’s annual UAW political conference in Washington, DC.

“That is what this choice is about. The question is, who do we want in that office to give us the best shot of winning? Of organizing. Of negotiating strong contracts. Of uniting the working class and winning our fair share once again, as our union has done so many times in our nation’s history,” Fain says.

Biden reached out to the UAW in September, when he visited a union picket line outside a General Motors parts warehouse in Ypsilanti, MI, during the strike against GM, Ford and Stellantis. The strike ended with significant gains in wages and benefits for most of the 150,000 hourly workers employed by the Detroit Three.

Trump, meanwhile, “doesn’t care about workers,” Fain says. “Donald Trump is a scab. He’s a billionaire, and that is who he represents.”

Fain links Trump to the UAW’s inability to win recognition as the bargaining agent for skilled-trades workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN (pictured, below). Those workers voted to join the union in 2015, while Barack Obama was president, but VW refused to bargain with what it termed a splinter group and the organizing effort stalled under Trump appointees to the National Labor Relations Board.

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“They dragged it out as long as they could because they knew Trump’s National Labor Relations Board would undo our victory. That set us back a decade,” Fain says.  

“President Biden, on the other hand, has made changes at the National Labor Relations Board that have opened new opportunities for organizing,” says Fain.  “He has vocally supported workers organizing, and said, at a UAW event: ‘Join, picket, protest. You have a right to form a union, and you cannot be stopped. You cannot be intimidated.’”

“It matters who runs the National Labor Relations Board if we are going to grow our union and organize the unorganized,” the UAW president says.

Harley Shaiken, a University of California labor expert, says UAW leadership has traditionally supported Democratic candidates, going back to its roots in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the 1930s.

The endorsement of Biden is impressive because “The union has committed the full force of its nearly half-million members” in an election that is expected to turn on a few thousand votes in a handful of swing states, Shaiken says. “The union could be decisive in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania where it has a strong presence,” he adds, even though it is easy to find Trump supporters in any auto plant.

Patrick Ruffini, a Republican pollster and author of the new book, “Party of The People: The Multiracial Populist Coalition Remaking the GOP,” notes industrial unions such as the UAW are critical to maintaining the Democratic Party’s so-called “Blue Wall” in the industrial Midwest despite the political and economic shifts that have made the American working class more conservative and more populist.

The politics of unionization have become a factor in the UAW’s push to organize nonunion automakers mainly in the southern U.S. In Alabama, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey (pictured, below left) is promising to fight the union’s efforts to organize in a state that is home to foreign automakers such as Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota and Mazda.

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Ivey notes the transplants that have taken root in Alabama since Mercedes-Benz opened its first plant in 1993 are key drivers of the state’s economy. More than 50,000 people are employed in the state’s automotive manufacturing sector, which includes more than 150 suppliers, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Unfortunately, the Alabama model for economic success is under attack. A national labor union…is ramping up efforts to target nonunion automakers throughout the United States, including ours here in Alabama,” the governor says.

“I will always stand strong for our hardworking men and women, as well as our world-class employers. When Alabamians are successful, our state is successful,” Ivey says. “Alabama has a proud industrial past. We must not let UAW tell us differently.”


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