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Biden joins United Auto Workers on picket line

Experts in presidential and U.S. labor history say they cannot recall an instance where a sitting president has joined an ongoing strike.
Posted at 6:45 AM, Sep 26, 2023

President Joe Biden appeared alongside United Auto Workers on the picket line in Michigan 

"You deserve what you earned and you earned a hell of a lot more than what you're getting paid now," Biden told the workers who are on the 12th day of their strike against the three major automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. 

The moment in suburban Detroit was historic as Biden is believed to be the first sitting president to join supporters in an ongoing strike. 

"This is absolutely unprecedented. No president has ever walked a picket line before," Erik Loomis, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, told The Associated Press. 

Loomis noted that presidents have historically worked as mediators during strikes. 

"They did not see it as their place to directly intervene in a strike or in labor action," he said. 

UAW workers asking automakers for shorter workweek
United Auto Workers members and supporters picket outside a General Motors facility

UAW workers asking automakers for shorter workweek

Amid the ongoing UAW strike, the union says it wants a four-day, 32-hour week while still getting 40 hours of pay.

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The UAW is demanding double-digit pay increases for all workers, the elimination of its tiered wage system, and more paid time off, among other things. 

When asked whether workers deserved a 40% pay raise, Biden shouted, "Yes."

Workers have increasingly put pressure on Detroit's Big Three. On Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain announced that the strike was expanding to 38 parts and distribution centers for General Motors and Stellantis.

Prior to Friday, the strike had been limited to about 13,000 workers at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The striking workers will get more support on Wednesday. Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to give a speech to the workers, instead of participating in the GOP presidential debate.