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WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The United Auto Workers union endorsed President Joe Biden on Wednesday, joining a growing list of unions that support his re-election bid.
UAW President Shawn Fain delivered the endorsement before Biden's keynote speech on the last day of the union's national conference in Washington.
"If our endorsements must be earned, Joe Biden has earned it," Fain said.
The vote to endorse Biden was unanimous, Fain told reporters. The union has more than 400,000 active members and is expected to exert significant influence in Michigan, a swing state that Biden narrowly won in 2020.
Fain's remarks drew a direct comparison between Biden and candidate Donald Trump's track record on unions. Biden joined a UAW picket line in September, becoming the first sitting president to visit any picket line.
Attendees cited the picket line visit as a particularly strong moment in Biden's track record supporting unions.
"I think that just energizes the people that are in the UAW, to know that our current standing president has been on the picket line with us. That is outstanding," said Douglas Collins, a Job Security Program representative from the Lima Engine Plant in Ohio. "He's always supported the union and supported the labor movement."
In that same month, Trump's event to address UAW members was held at Drake Enterprises, a non-union business in Clinton Township, Mich.
Fain pointed to Trump's suggestion in 2015 to move car production from Michigan, where the UAW has a strong presence, to lower-wage states. He also cited Trump's silence during UAW's six-week General Motors strike in 2019.
When a Jeep assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill. shut down, Trump said high union wages were to blame, while Biden celebrated the later deal that saved the plant.
References to Trump triggered boos from the audience.
"Instead of talking trash about our union, Joe Biden stood with us to save Belvidere and save that community," Fain said. "Rarely, as a union, do you get so clear of a choice between two candidates."
In his speech, Biden said he was proud to have the union's support and to give them his in return. He emphasized wins for U.S. workers during his presidency, including bringing in billions of dollars in investment, supercharging advanced manufacturing and using union labor to build electric vehicles.
He also pointed to broader economic indicators, including 14 million new jobs, low unemployment and a swift post-COVID-19 recovery.
"Building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down, that's what I set out to do," Biden said.
Fain celebrated the union's November ratification of new contracts with the Big Three automakers, which include raises of at least 25% over 4 1/2 years. Still, he emphasized the continued need to "fight like hell."
"They said workers could never win back cost of living, but they did. They said we couldn't bring back a plant that was scheduled to close, but we did." Fain said.
"They said we'd never be able to make EV jobs good jobs, they said we'd never be able to get that work under our master agreements, but we did. We were underestimated then, and I'm sure we're going to be underestimated now."
Collins, who has attended multiple UAW conferences, said attendees have been much more energized this year, thanks to new leadership, including Fain and Vice President Mike Booth, elected in December 2022.
"You definitely have a new brand of leadership that's in office right now that's setting the tone not only for the UAW but for the country," Collins said. "This has not been a strike for the UAW auto workers, aerospace workers. This has been a movement for the entire country."