This electrician and union leader could be Biden’s secret weapon in Michigan

By | March 27, 2024
This electrician and union leader could be Biden's secret weapon in Michigan

After some historic wins for the labor movement, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain could be the man who makes the biggest difference for President Biden in key Midwestern swing states this fall.

The union leader has soared in the past year, leading the UAW to some of its most important profits in decades. He is a captivating speaker who is gaining the attention and trust of many workers at a time when Biden is struggling to connect with voters due to higher prices and Israel’s destructive war in Gaza.

“We need to know who will run with us! And this election is clear. Joe Biden bet on the American worker, while Donald Trump blamed the American worker!” Fain said excitedly Speech endorsing Biden in January.

Fain’s star power, along with approval and long-running union turnout efforts for Democrats will be crucial in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other industrial states that could hinge on a few thousand votes, labor and political experts say.

“Shawn Fain has done an extraordinary job of restoring the union to where it belongs — not just on the front lines of the labor movement but on the front lines of progressive struggles,” said Steve Rosenthal, the former political director of the AFL-CIO union federation. “He will have tremendous credibility.”

The key in swing states will be picking out working-class voters who might otherwise stay home, a task for which Fain could have an impact “perhaps beyond any other person,” said Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America union and a democratic operative who works with electoral participation.

Asked about politics in an interview, Fain said he is focused on his UAW work, including union organizing a string of southern auto plants and is negotiating a new contract for Daimler Truck workers, who won hefty raises in a deal announced late Friday. But he pledged to help Biden, saying the labor movement’s goals depend on electing supportive politicians.

“I’m running a union right now, and our main goal is to organize and win good contracts,” he said. “But of course, you know, politics is part of all of this. And where I can support the president, I will support him.”

Biden, he added, is aligned with the union on the biggest issues facing the working class, including wages, health care and pension protection. “And that’s why we supported him against Donald Trump, who represents the billionaire class and the corporate class, and who couldn’t care less about workers,” said Finewho got his start as an electrician for Chrysler.

That message resonates with many car workers. Bill Bagwell, a longtime UAW member at a General Motors plant in Michigan, said GM, Ford and Stellanti workers are happy with large increases they received after last year’s strikes, which may make them more enlightened ahead of election season.

“You have members who may have been on the fence last time and maybe voted for Donald Trump who now have a much better relationship with their union and who may be more willing to do what the union asks them to do,” Bagwell said.

Supporting Biden as he tries to organize big factories in red states forces Fain and the UAW into a difficult balancing act. The union’s support for Biden ranked some Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., in the weeks before the plant voted to join the UAW, the workers said. Before the vote, UAW organizers took pains to tell the workforce that they were free to support any politician they wanted. Fully supporting Biden could become tougher as the UAW expands its push to more factories in the South, including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Biden campaign aides say they plan to work regularly with Fain in the coming months, though they did not provide details. Fain was a guest of Biden at State of the Union last month and received a shout-out during the speech, but he has not appeared at campaign events.

“We are proud to have earned the UAW’s support, and we join them in their mission to hold businesses accountable, strengthen our unions and grow our middle class,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement.

Campaign officials have celebrated and amplified Fain’s comment in recent months, hoping the increasingly popular figure will help the president polish his bona fides with blue-collar voters. While labor leaders overwhelmingly support Biden, some rank-and-file members have supported Donald Trump in past elections.

Biden regularly touts his presidency as the most unionized in American history, and aides say he plans to lean on organized labor to spread his message about the growing economy. He has made several visits to union meetings in recent months, including an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference and a United Steelworkers event.

“Unions are more popular today than they’ve ever been in a long, long time, not because of Joe Biden supporting them — because of you,” Biden said Thursday after receiving an endorsement from North America’s construction unions. “You always step up. You step into the groove. You get things done.”

Some Democratic strategists say Fain could even help Biden with party-wide discontent over the administration’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war, a particular cause for concern for Democrats in Michigan, which has a large Arab American population. Both Fain and the UAW called for a truce early in the conflict, after it boiled over as an issue among some members of the union, which represents not only autoworkers but graduate students employed by universities. Fain said the union is still pushing Biden on Gaza, but he stressed that Trump would be worse for the conflict and for the labor movement.

“One of two people is going to be president of the United States in this upcoming election. And obviously the other candidate would be a complete disaster, not only for the workforce, but for the situation in Gaza,” Fain said. “We talk quite often with the president and his staff about our concerns in Gaza and that more needs to be done. And we will continue to do so.”

Fain and Biden have been engaged in one complicated dance since the UAW presidential election a year ago. White House officials, who did not know Fain well at the time, were forced to publicly recognize him as the new UAW leader slammed into The Biden administration over policy differences and early withheld the union’s endorsement of the Democratic president.

“Our endorsements will be earned. They will not be given freely, as they have been in the past,” Fain told Washington Post last year. Among his complaints was the administration’s use of billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize battery and electric vehicle factories without demanding strong wages.

Biden launched a charm offensive, inviting Fain to the Oval Office to discuss the transition to electric cars, repeatedly speaking with him by phone and, in a first for a sitting president, join a UAW picket line as workers went on strike at Detroit’s three major automakers last year. Biden too pushed Jeep maker Stellanti wants to reopen a shuttered Illinois plant, a deal that helped resolve the strikes.

“If our endorsements have to be earned, Joe Biden has earned it,” Fain declared at an auto workers’ conference in January.

The UAW has long played a role in getting voters, reminds its members to vote and ensure they know how to check their registration status and access absentee ballots. Union members also knock on doors and hand out information about candidates.

“I see President Fain playing the role of encouraging members to vote for President Biden, but his style is to let the membership decide,” said Scott Houldieson, a friend of Fain and a UAW worker at a Ford plant in Chicago. “He will put the facts out there for the members.”

Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party and now a senior adviser to the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, said he believes Fain will try to maintain an “independent broker status.”

“I don’t think it would be fair to characterize him as a Democratic surrogate,” he said. “Certainly the Democratic Party is the closest ally, but it’s the UAW first, the Democratic Party second.”

Fain said one of his main messages is to convince workers that voting is important.

“That’s why we’re in the situation we’re in now — where three American families have as much wealth as half of America — is because half of America doesn’t even vote, because they’re tired,” he said in the interview. “They feel it doesn’t matter. And we have to get people to understand that it matters. And the only way you change that is by voting. Because no matter how much money the rich have and how much money they put into politics, the working class has the votes.”

While Fain has been a strong validator of Biden, he could play a more critical role by undermining Trump’s appeal with rank-and-file members, said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Trump has railed against Fain, calling him a “weapon of mass destruction” against auto workers. Trump spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said via email that the former president “delivered” to union workers while in the White House and will “put them first again when he is re-elected.”

During his speech endorsing Biden, Fain launched into a broadside against the former president, saying Trump didn’t speak out during a 2019 auto workers’ strike and “doesn’t care about workers.” Trump, he said, was a “scab.”

#electrician #union #leader #Bidens #secret #weapon #Michigan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Publisho Theme | Powered by Wordpress