WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is asking major U.S. automakers and their workers’ union to reach an agreement that takes “every possible step to avoid painful plant closings” as the sector transitions to electric vehicles.
The president has not yet been endorsed by the United Auto Workers as he seeks reelection, despite his broad support from organized labor going into the 2024 campaign. The UAW represents 146,000 workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, which are commonly known as the big three automakers. The workers’ contracts expire at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14.
Biden said in a statement Monday that as the market moves away from gasoline-powered vehicles, the auto industry still must provide “good jobs that can support a family” and ensure that “transitions are fair and look to retool, reboot, and rehire in the same factories and communities at comparable wages, while giving existing workers the first shot to fill those jobs.”
“The UAW helped create the American middle class and as we move forward in this transition to new technologies, the UAW deserves a contract that sustains the middle class,” Biden said.
GM said in a statement that it’s bargaining in “good faith” with the UAW on “a contract that provides job security and supports good wages and benefits for our team members while enabling companies to compete successfully domestically and globally.”
Shawn Fain, president of the union, has asked for an end to different wage tiers among workers. He is also seeking double-digit pay raises and restoration of cost-of-living pay, defined benefit pensions for all workers, and restoring retiree health coverage. The union has proposed a 32-hour workweek, instead of the conventional 40.
Facing the risk of a potential strike, automakers have said they face development costs as the industry shifts to EVs and spends billions of dollars constructing battery plants.