Former President Obama backed the United Auto Workers strike on Saturday, telling automakers that it’s time to “do right” by workers.
“Fourteen years ago, when the big three automakers were struggling to stay afloat, my administration and the American people stepped in to support them,” Obama said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “So did the auto workers in the UAW who sacrificed pay and benefits to help get the companies back on their feet.”
“Now that our carmakers are enjoying robust profits, it’s time to do right by those same workers so the industry can emerge more united and competitive than ever,” he added.
UAW began a strike against the “Big Three” automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — early Friday morning, a first in the union’s history, after negotiations failed before reaching the end of the workers’ contracts. The union is demanding increased wages, shorter work weeks and better retirement benefits.
Profits at the Big Three firms increased by 92 percent in the last decade and CEO pay increased by 40 percent in the same period, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.
“We are committed to winning an agreement with the Big Three that reflects the incredible sacrifice and contributions UAW members have made to these companies,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in an address Thursday.
In late 2008, weeks after Obama’s first election, the Bush administration announced a nearly $18 billion bailout for major automakers wrecked by the recession. Congress later invested about $80 billion of federal funds into Detroit automakers during the Obama administration, losing about $11 billion on its GM investment alone by the time the government sold the shares in 2013.
The Biden administration has also backed the UAW strike and President Biden encouraged automakers to return to the bargaining table with an increased offer on Friday.
“I believe they should go further… Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW,” Biden said.
Strikes are limited to a small number of specific plants chosen by union leadership hours before they begin. The pop-up strike tactic is meant to “keep the companies guessing,” Fain said.