Major business group blames Biden for UAW strike

Last updated on September 15, 2023

One of the nation’s most prominent business groups on Friday blamed President Joe Biden directly for United Auto Workers’ decision to strike late Thursday night, as lawmakers and other groups rushed to stake out positions just hours after the strike was announced.

“The UAW strike and indeed the ‘summer of strikes’ is the natural result of the Biden administration’s ‘whole of government’ approach to promoting unionization at all costs,” Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Friday in a statement.

The Chamber’s message — that the strike, and any ensuing economic fallout, is Biden’s fault — could presage a rich vein of attack for other business groups and conservatives, especially if the strike stretches into weeks.

The United Auto Workers announced a strike at three plants — one each at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — overnight after failing to agree on a contract with the so-called Big Three auto companies. Though right now only those three auto plants are targets, the UAW has said that more will strike as time passes without a deal.

Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats in Congress including Sen. Gary Peters and Reps. Debbie Dingell and Elissa Slotkin said they plan to join picket lines as a show of force, underscoring the strike’s political significance, which encompasses not only the demands of an iconic American union, but also Biden’s push for electric vehicle manufacturing.

“UAW members made huge sacrifices to help save the auto industry in 2008 and now that the Big Three are making historic profits, the workers deserve to get their fair share of the success,” Peters said minutes after the strike was announced.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also said he plans to rally with union President Shawn Fain in Detroit on Friday.

Biden has worked to brand himself as the most pro-union president in modern times. His administration put out a report this summer underscoring the benefits of unionization, and the Labor Department has recently released a rules that labor and employment watchers, including the Chamber on Friday, have argued are favorable to unions.

Still, the UAW has withheld an endorsement for Biden over concerns about unionized workforces being left out of the the electric vehicle transition, rendering their negotiations particularly thorny. His administration has stepped carefully around the actual auto negotiations, but remained engaged throughout the summer.

Clark of the Chamber on Friday urged the UAW to call off the strike. The National Association of Manufacturers also pushed for a resolution “to end this strike and avoid further undermining the strength of our industry and harming our broader economy.”

UAW has demanded wage increases as high as 40 percent. Ford and General Motors have seemingly come closest to that number, publicly offering wage increases of 20 percent recent days. But that wasn’t enough to avoid a strike.

More plants will go on a strike if a deal isn’t reached, Fain said when he announced the first targets.

“All options remain on the table,” he said. “National leadership will determine the appropriate targets and timing for further stand-up strike action.”