White House officials won’t travel to Detroit for auto talks

Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) on a picket line outside the Ford Motor Co. Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, United States, Friday, September 15, 2023.

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The Biden administration is no longer sending two key officials to Detroit this week to potentially help broker a deal between striking auto workers and the Big Three automakers, a White House official told NBC News.

President Joe Biden announced last week that he would send White House senior adviser Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to support talks between the companies and the United Auto Workers union.

But the White House and the UAW union mutually agreed that it would be best to speak virtually via Zoom, the official said Tuesday.

Sperling and Su could still travel to Detroit next week, but there are no concrete plans for them to do so, the official said.

“We will continue to evaluate the travel schedule based on the active status of negotiations,” the White House official said.

Biden largely sided with striking auto workers in a speech Friday. The president called Ford, General engines And Stellantis share record profits with their workers.

Despite this, Biden received a relatively cold reception from the UAW.

Union President Shawn Fain told MSNBC on Monday that he doesn’t see a major role for the White House in resolving the dispute.

“This battle is not about the president,” Fain said. “This is not about the former president or anyone before that. This battle is about working people standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they are tired of going backwards.”

Nearly 13,000 UAW members are on strike at three key plants in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. This is the first time the union has targeted all three automakers at the same time.

Fain said Monday evening that the UAW would launch additional strikes at more Ford, GM and Stellantis plants if “serious progress” was not made in negotiations by noon Friday.

“Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right within the Big Three. We’re not waiting and we’re not kidding. So Friday, September 22 at noon is a new deadline,” Fain said in a press release. video released by the union.

Biden, who often touts his middle-class upbringing, has sought to associate himself closely with the labor movement. But the strikes could test the president’s commitment to the labor movement if the work stoppages expand and threaten to cause broader economic disruption as he seeks a second term.

Former President Donald Trump had called on the UAW to support his 2024 presidential bid, while at the same time attacking the union’s leadership.

Trump plans to skip the GOP primary debate next week and travel to Detroit to speak with union members.

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