President Joe Biden has taken a remarkable step in the annals of presidential history, standing shoulder to shoulder with United Auto Workers (UAW) picketers on the 12th day of their strike against major carmakers.
This unprecedented move underscores his unparalleled support for labor unions, a stance unparalleled even in the legacies of fervently pro-union presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
A Different Kind of President
Recalling the past, we find no precedent where a sitting president joined an ongoing strike. The closest historical parallel was Theodore Roosevelt, who, in 1902, invited labor leaders and mine operators to the White House during a significant coal strike, seen as a rare embrace of unions as he sought resolution.
Notably, Biden’s arrival coincides with former President Donald Trump’s visit to Detroit in pursuit of the 2024 Republican nomination. However, union leaders remain steadfast in their belief that Trump offers no allegiance to their cause.
While lawmakers often express solidarity with unions during strikes, Biden’s actions represent a watershed moment. In the run-up to the 2020 Democratic primary, he and fellow candidates rallied alongside hundreds of striking casino workers in Las Vegas, demanding fair contracts with The Palms Casino Resort.
Traditionally, sitting presidents have refrained from entangling themselves in strike disputes, mindful of the delicate balance between workers’ rights and potential disruptions to the broader economy and daily life. President Biden’s involvement marks a distinct departure from this historical norm, highlighting his unwavering commitment to the labor movement.
Biden’s visit to a Detroit suburb’s picket line stands as a powerful testament to his pro-union stance. His record includes outspoken support for Amazon.com facility unionization efforts and the implementation of executive actions to bolster worker organizing. Earlier this year, he garnered a joint endorsement from major unions and consciously steered clear of high-dollar fundraisers in southern California during the writers’ and actors’ strikes in Hollywood. This marked a departure from the typical presidential approach, showcasing his unwavering commitment to the labor movement.
Erik Loomis, a University of Rhode Island professor and U.S. labor history expert, emphasized the unprecedented nature of President Biden’s action: “This is absolutely unprecedented. No president has ever walked a picket line before.” Historically, presidents viewed themselves as mediators, avoiding direct involvement in strikes or labor actions.
Amidst the ongoing UAW strike, President Biden has voiced his dissatisfaction with the auto companies, suggesting they have not made adequate concessions. Nonetheless, the White House has remained tight-lipped regarding the president’s stance on specific UAW demands, including a proposed 40% wage increase and full-time pay for a 32-hour workweek.
From the White House, Biden asserted, “I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the automobile industry was going under. They gave everything from their pensions on, and they saved the automobile industry.” He emphasized the need for workers to reap the rewards of the automotive industry’s resurgence.
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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.