Joe Biden makes history by joining auto workers protest

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Joe Biden makes history by joining auto workers protest

US President Joe Biden has backed striking cars workers in Michigan during a visit to their picket line – a first for a sitting US president.

Mr Biden said that the workers “deserve” raises and other concessions they are seeking.

The visit comes a day before his would-be challenger, Donald Trump, is due to arrive.

But workers told the BBC they felt the rivals might politicise the strike, and urged them to “just stay away”.

In brief remarks to the picketing workers on Tuesday, the Democratic president said that they “deserve the significant raise you need and other benefits”.

He added that the workers should be doing as “incredibly well” as the companies that employ them.

While US lawmakers – and presidential candidates – frequently appear at strikes to express solidarity with American workers, it is considered unprecedented for a sitting president to do so.

Some workers said they hoped the attention from Mr Biden and his rival would help their cause, but others dismissed the visits as political stunts aimed at getting votes, which would have little practical impact on the negotiations.

“We would much rather neither of them showed up,” longtime Ford worker Billy Rowe told the BBC. “We don’t want to divide people and when you bring politics into it, it’s going to cause an argument.”

Earlier in September the UAW declared a strike targeting Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, pushing the three major car companies for better pay and conditions.

The White House, which was heavily involved in resolving a 2022 labour dispute with rail workers, was “not part of the negotiations”, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.

Officials had previously refused to be drawn on whether Mr Biden supports the current UAW proposal, with Ms Jean-Pierre insisting the administration would “leave it to the UAW and the big three”.

Mr Biden’s presence in Michigan is instead intended to show support to the car workers, Ms Jean-Pierre said.

The president believes “that the men and women of the UAW deserve a fair share of the record profits they’ve helped to create”, she added.