United Auto Workers (UAW) President, Shawn Fain addresses picketing UAW members at a General Motors Service Parts Operations plant in Belleville, Michigan, on September 26, 2023, as US President Joe Biden joined the workers.
Jim Watson | Afp | Getty Images
DETROIT – United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain doubled down on his criticism of former President Donald Trump ahead of the Republican presidential front-runner’s rally Wednesday night at an auto parts supplier in Michigan.
During national media interviews following Fain’s appearance with President Joe Biden on a UAW picket line Tuesday afternoon in suburban Detroit, the outspoken union leader denounced Trump’s track record with automotive unions. He also criticized the fact that Trump’s Wednesday visit will be at a nonunion company called Drake Enterprises.
“I find a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a nonunion business,” Fain said in an interview Tuesday night on CNN. “All you have to do is look at his track record — his track record speaks for itself.”
When asked if he would meet with Trump during his trip, Fain said he sees “no point” in doing so “because I don’t think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for. He serves a billionaire class and that’s what’s wrong with this country.”
In response to Fain’s comments, a Trump spokesman generally criticized the “political leadership of some of the labor unions and the working middle class employees that they purport to represent.”
“President Trump will be in Michigan talking with union workers and ensuring American jobs are protected. He has always been on the side of American workers and will do everything in his power to be their voice as Crooked Joe Biden is on the side of our foreign adversaries,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in an emailed statement.
Trump recently accused UAW leaders of failing their members. He has also heavily criticized Biden for the timing of his visit to Michigan, as well as the current administration’s support of electric vehicles.
“Crooked Joe Biden had no intention of going to visit the United Autoworkers, until I announced that I would be heading to Michigan to be with them, & help then out. Actually, Crooked Joe sold them down the river with his ridiculous all Electric Car Hoax,” Trump posted early Saturday on his social media platform Truth Social.
Biden and Trump visited the presidential swing state amid a UAW strike against General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, after the sides failed to reach new contracts by Sept. 14. The strikes currently involve about 18,300 workers, or 12.5%, of the UAW’s 146,000 members with the automakers.
In the Saturday post, Trump, who has gained the support of many blue-collar workers who helped him win the presidency in 2016, also urged the UAW to endorse him, claiming “autoworkers are ‘toast'” if they don’t.
Though Fain has condemned Trump and voiced support for Biden during his picket line visit Tuesday, the UAW is withholding an endorsement in the 2024 presidential election. Fain has said the union is doing so until the UAW’s concerns about the auto industry’s transition to EVs are addressed.
“Our focus right now is 100% on getting a great agreement for our members,” Fain told CNN. “Endorsements and things like that, we’ll do those things at the appropriate time … there’s still work to be done.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during a rally in Warren, Michigan, U.S., October 1, 2022.
Dieu-nalio Chery | Reutersm
The UAW for several years has been concerned about how to transition traditional auto workers into new jobs for EVs. A 2018 study by the union found mass adoption of EVs could cost the UAW 35,000 jobs. However, the union has more recently said that number could be lower.
Fain, on the picket line with Biden at the Willow Run Redistribution Center, called the president joining the striking workers a “historic moment.” But he did not officially endorse the commander in chief for next year’s presidential election.
Fain invited Biden to join the UAW picket lines days after Trump announced he would skip the second GOP debate to hold a rally in Macomb County, Michigan, where a large contingent of blue-collar autoworkers live.
UAW is not affiliated with Trump’s Wednesday rally. But UAW members have previously attended and participated in Trump’s events in Michigan.
In 2016, when the union endorsed Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, the UAW said about 1 in 4 of its 412,000 members supported Trump, according to an internal survey by the union.
The UAW followed Fain’s comments about Trump by releasing an online video criticizing plant closures, including GM’s decision four years ago to shutter its Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio. The video included a 2017 clip of Trump telling area residents that jobs lost in the region were “all coming back.”
“I’ll tell you what, I rode through your beautiful roads coming up from the airport, and I was looking at some of those big, once-incredible job producing factories. My wife, Melania, said ‘What happened?’ I said ‘Those jobs have left Ohio,'” Trump said on July 25, 2017. “They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. Coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house. Don’t sell your house.”
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks next to Lordstown Motors employees Michael Fabian and Rich Schmidt while inspecting the Lordstown Motors 2021 endurance truck, an electric pickup truck, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
The comments came before GM’s closure of the plant, which Trump criticized publicly. He demanded GM CEO Mary Barra “sell it or do something quickly.”
GM sold the plant to EV startup Lordstown Motors, a decision Trump hailed. However, the company was not successful and filed for bankruptcy in June.
The location of Trump’s Wednesday visit to Drake Enterprises “was chosen to host the former president because of its entrepreneurial spirit and its exposure to the gasoline engine business,” a co-owner of the company, which employs roughly 125 people, told Crain’s Detroit Business.
The rally is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, an hour before the second GOP debate is scheduled to start. Trump also skipped the first GOP debate last month, opting instead to release a prerecorded interview online with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.