1 of 3 | President Joe Biden walked the auto workers' picket line at the General Motors Willow Run Redistribution Center in Belleville, Mich., on Tuesday. Biden walked the line with United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain (R) as the union remained in contract negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. Photo courtesy White House X account
Sept. 26 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden walked the auto workers' picket line at the General Motors Willow Run Redistribution Center in Belleville, just outside of Detroit, becoming the first president in modern history to join striking workers at a site of protest.
Biden walked the line with United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain as the union remained in difficult contract negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.
"The fact of the matter is you guys -- the UAW -- you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 and before," Biden told the workers during his visit. He spoke with a bullhorn in his hand and wearing a UAW cap.
"You made a lot of sacrifices and gave up a lot," Biden said. "The companies were in trouble. Now they are doing incredibly well and -- guess what?
"You should be doing incredibly well, too. You deserve a significant raise and other benefits. Let's get back what we lost," he said.
In an afternoon post on the social-media platform X, the White House showed the president addressing strikers on the picket line while saying, "The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to be the most pro-union Administration in history."
On Friday, the UAW expanded its strike from three assembly plants to all GM and Stellantis distribution plants around the country in hopes it would spur negotiations.
"The president is a union guy. You heard him say that many times," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday. "He is the most pro-union president in modern times. That is not something that he's given him that -- himself that title. That is something that labor unions have given to him, and he wears that very proudly."
While Jean-Pierre declined to say if Biden supports the 40% pay increase asked for by the unions, she said he believes that records profits by the industry should lead to "record UAW contracts."
"He spoke to the parties on both sides of this. He has made it very, very clear that he supports union workers; he supports the UAW workers. The president is going to continue to show his support, not just from the last couple of years, but as he has been in the public eye."
Asked if former president Donald Trump's plans to visit workers affected Biden's decision to go to the picket lines, Jean-Pierre swiftly rejected the idea. Trump continues to lead all polling for the Republican presidential nomination.
"This is a decision to visit the picket line was based on his own desire," she said. "This is what the president wanted to do to stand, to stand with autoworkers."
On Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain announced its members at General Motors and Stellantis distribution centers across the country will go on strike, adding to the 13,000 already walking the picket lines at three assembly plants.
UAW members totaling roughly 13,000 workers at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, and the GM Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri kicked off the UAW strike earlier this month.