Confusion surrounds Biden’s trip to visit striking auto workers

Susan Walsh/AP

President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with the Presidential Advisory Council on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, September 25, 2023.


There was confusion on the eve Joe BidenTuesday Trip to MichiganAs the White House scrambled to finalize the president’s plans to visit striking autoworkers and lawmakers, they were left scratching their heads about his itinerary.

On Monday afternoon, UAW members at the site of one of the picket lines were told that Biden would be coming to their location, only to later hear that that tentative plan had been scrapped. In the absence of an announced plan from the White House, speculation has spread among UAW ranks that Biden will go to whatever picket line is closest to the airport. There was even a rumor on Monday that Biden’s trip may have been canceled altogether — a possibility a White House official flatly denied.

It is highly unusual for a presidential visit to be shrouded in uncertainty at such a late hour.

Meanwhile, members of the White House press corps looking to cover the president’s visit were also unsure as of late Monday exactly where to go in Wayne County. Several Michigan Democrats said they had not received any advance details from the White House.

The complex logistics surrounding the president’s hastily announced visit were described to CNN by people familiar with the planning. One person on the ground described the process as “chaotic” and “chaotic.”

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In many ways, this planning reflected the thorny policies of the White House An unusual decision to send Biden To stand in solidarity with unionized workers amid an active strike. Biden had previously declined to do so to avoid the perception that he was taking sides in an ongoing labor dispute.

Last week, the White House backed away from plans for top advisers — acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling — to visit Detroit to offer to mediate talks. This change raised questions about what the administration might do in a situation where it had no legal or legislative authority to intervene, and also highlighted the highly sensitive nature of the ongoing negotiations.

The White House tried to make the distinction hard on Monday, saying that Biden’s joining of striking auto workers did not indicate that he supported any specific demands the UAW might make in negotiations.

“He stands with the workers,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. But she added: “We are not participating in the negotiations. “This is something they have to decide.”

Reporters sought to make a finer point to his position later in the day, asking Biden directly whether he specifically supports some of the demands workers are currently making of the Big Three automakers.

“Yes, I support — I’ve always supported the UAW,” Biden told reporters Monday.

The prospect of Biden facing off again against former President Donald Trump next year has added political significance to Tuesday’s visit to Michigan. Trump too Heading to Michigan this week, with prime-time remarks by unionized workers scheduled for Wednesday evening.

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Biden, who often describes himself as the “most pro-union” president the country has ever seen, hopes to once again win the UAW’s coveted political endorsement before 2024.

Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan, who said he had been in close contact with Sperling and others about the strike, said senior administration officials have described the current juncture as a “coming full circle” moment.

“the [auto] The companies were in trouble. Labor and the federal government played an important role in keeping businesses alive. “They are now so profitable that it is time to bring things full circle,” Kildee said. “Let’s get workers back to where they were before they and the federal government bailed out the car companies.”

Since the early days of the administration, the Biden White House has sought to avoid being seen as influencing third-party negotiations, including Justice Department investigations into labor disputes. Biden said that his predecessor showed a disregard for the independence of such operations.

The White House denied on Monday that Trump’s decision to visit Michigan took Biden’s plans into account.

“Absolutely not,” said Jean-Pierre.

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