Biden Woos Union Auto Workers in Battle With Trump for Michigan

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(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden sought to capitalize off his recent endorsement by the United Auto Workers union, joining members volunteering at a phone bank in the crucial swing state of Michigan.

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Biden touted gains for organized labor under his administration, saying their efforts to fight for higher wages had helped American workers across the board and telling UAW members he would need their support to win reelection.

“You all are the ones that brung me to the dance,” Biden said at a phone bank in Warren, Michigan — joined by the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and UAW President Shawn Fain.

The president’s visit took him to Macomb County, a former stronghold of so-called Reagan Democrats, the blue-collar voters who defected from the party to back a Republican in the 1980s. That’s a situation he is seeking to prevent in 2024, with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump enjoying solid support among rank-and-file union members.

Biden has repeatedly cited his economic agenda as building up the middle class and union members, even as many workers express anxiety over his transition to electric vehicles and other polices.

“Jobs are growing,” Biden said Thursday. “Remember they told us we’re dead. Manufacturing is dead in America. China has been eating our lunch. Well guess what, man? We don’t taste that good.”

Biden is looking to boost his reelection bid by mobilizing workers in manufacturing-heavy swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary is on Feb. 27, and while Biden is expected to cruise to victory, the race serves as a tune-up for the general election.

The state’s electorate highlights many of the challenges his campaign will need to navigate with union members skeptical of his policies and backlash from progressives and Muslim-American voters over his support for Israel.

The president’s visit to the state comes just a week after the UAW endorsed Biden at a raucous gathering in Washington. The union’s backing dealt a blow to Trump, who was coming off a decisive victory in the New Hampshire primary that put him on the cusp of clinching his party’s presidential nomination.

“We know who’s been there for labor. And we sure as hell know who wasn’t,” Fain said. “We’re going to fight like hell, and we’re going to ensure that Joe Biden’s the next president”

Blue-collar workers make up a sizable portion of Trump’s base and the former president has raged at slights from Fain, who denounced Trump as a “scab” who serves billionaires and praised Biden as a working-class champion who helped save US auto companies.

Trump wrote Sunday on his social media platform that Fain is a “dope” who is “is selling the Automobile Industry right into the big, powerful, hands of China.” The former president met on Wednesday with officials from the Teamsters union in a bid to secure their endorsement in the November election.

“I don’t know if the top people will support me. We’re going to have to find that out. But within the union itself, I have tremendous support,” Trump told reporters after the meeting.

Biden has billed himself as the most pro-union president in US history, even showing up at a picket line outside a General Motors Co. facility in the Detroit area last September amid the UAW’s strike. The president is betting his appeals cut into Trump’s advantage with non-college educated voters.

The president needs to shore up that support in battleground states, where polls show him trailing Trump in a likely rematch.

Biden’s problems with voters are especially acute in Michigan, where Muslim and Arab voters who are infuriated with Biden’s Israel policy make up a significant chunk of the electorate. Some community leaders refused to meet with Biden’s 2024 campaign manager last week during a visit to Dearborn, according to the Detroit News.

Michigan has traditionally been the No. 1 US state for auto manufacturing and is the home base of the UAW, which has said it will help turn out its workers in the fall for Biden. That could help the president offset any losses with Arab and Muslim voters, who have been a key Democratic constituency.

--With assistance from Stephanie Lai.

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