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In Illinois, President Joe Biden praises union workers, their recent strike success

President Joe Biden praised union workers Thursday at an event to mark the re-opening of the Belvidere, Ill., auto plant and the success of the recent UAW contract. Photo by Tannen Maury/UPI
1 of 5 | President Joe Biden praised union workers Thursday at an event to mark the re-opening of the Belvidere, Ill., auto plant and the success of the recent UAW contract. Photo by Tannen Maury/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 9 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden joined UAW President Shawn Fain and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Thursday to mark the re-opening of the Belvidere, Ill., auto plant and the UAW contract that won historic gains for auto workers.

The White House said Biden's trip to Illinois was meant to highlight his working-family agenda, commitment to creating good-paying union jobs and the UAW strike win that brings thousands of jobs back to the Belvidere plant.

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"When ... in Belvidere, Illinois, he's going to mark the reopening of that assembly plant," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing Wednesday. "This reopening will create thousands of jobs, highlight the president's commitment to rehiring and retooling the EV and EV battery jobs in the same communities where auto jobs have created good-paying union jobs for decades."

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Biden spoke at the Community Building Complex in Belvidere on Thursday afternoon before a scheduled stop in Chicago for a campaign reception. Biden was scheduled to return to the White House Thursday evening.

There, the president recounted his personal connections to the auto industry in his comments.

"My state of Delaware -- a little state -- because we've got a small population, had the highest percentage of UAW workers in the United States of America. We had the largest GM plant outside of Detroit," Biden said. "But here's the deal, I got raised on automobiles. My dad ran ... an automobile agency for a long time."

He also recounted childhood memories of how auto plant closures can affect workers and communities.

"I grew up in neighborhoods where I know what it's like when a plant closes down. The largest General Motors plant, as I said; the largest Chrysler plant -- when they shut down, people lost their sense of pride. Neighborhoods were in real trouble. People wondered whether they were going to stick around, what would going to happen to their families," Biden said.

Biden also touted his long history with the UAW.

"To the members of the UAW -- you're tough, tough, tough as they come. The first outfit to ever endorse me as a 29-year-old kid when I was running for the United States Senate and have been with me my whole career," Biden said.

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The president also praised UAW President Shawn Fain.

"You know, the fact is, this starts at the top, though, with Shawn Fain. Shawn, you've done one hell of a job, pal," Biden said.

The UAW strike against the Detroit Three automakers won major gains for UAW members, including a 25% total wage increase over the four-year life of the new contract.

During the six-week strike, Biden joined the UAW GM picket line at Willow Run, Mich., just outside of Detroit Sept. 26.

Using a bullhorn, Biden told the striking workers that they saved the automobile industry in 2008 when they made concessions as some of the automakers faced bankruptcy.

"You made a lot of sacrifices and gave up a lot," Biden said on the picket line. "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."

At one point during Thursday's event in Illinois, Biden's comments were interrupted by an Israeli war protester, who shouted, "President Biden, you need to call for a ceasefire in Gaza!" The crowd booed, and Biden continued with his comments.

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