The White House said Friday President Biden won’t be involved in any United Auto Workers negotiations with Detroit’s Big Three automakers after visiting striking workers this week.
Biden told striking autoworkers Tuesday to “stick with” their demand for a 40% pay increase when he visited a picket line in Belleville, Michigan. The president said workers deserve a “lot more” than they are getting, but the White House reiterated that Biden is not getting directly involved in negotiations.
“He believes they should get a significant raise,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Friday’s press briefing, noting Biden’s senior advisers have “been in touch with all parties.”
“But as it relates to any negotiations and what they are asking for, he wants to make sure that he leaves that up to the UAW leadership,” Jean-Pierre added. “And, ultimately, again, members should be able to receive a fair and just deal. And the president is going to be consistent about that.”
The UAW has been emboldened since Biden’s visit to the picket lines Tuesday. UAW President Shawn Fain announced Friday the strike will expand against Ford and General Motors, though Stellantis plants will be spared for the time being.
The union boss called on members at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant and GM’s Lansing, Michigan, assembly plant to walk out Friday at noon. The 7,000 workers at those two factories bring the total striking members at the Big Three to around 25,000.
Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing and sustainability, slammed the expanded strikes as a stunt to generate “headlines, not real progress.”
Ford CEO Jim Farley held a media briefing Friday afternoon at which he said Ford had offered “an incredible contract” to the UAW and accused the union of “holding up the deal over battery plants that won’t come online for another 2 to 3 years.”
Stellantis also released a statement following Fain’s announcement, saying the company “has been intensely working with the UAW to find solutions to the issues that are of most concern to our employees while ensuring the company can remain competitive given the market’s fierce competition.”
UAW’s plan is to ramp up its strike incrementally as negotiations drag on without agreements in place but has not ruled out a national walkout by all 150,000 of its members across the Big Three. It’s a strategy the union has said enables more flexibility in the escalation and makes it more difficult for auto companies to predict its next move.
The union’s first walkouts began Sept. 15 at a single plant each at Ford, GM and Stellantis after Fain’s marching orders in a Facebook Live video that morning.
On Sept. 22, the union broadened its strike against GM and Stellantis by targeting 38 parts distribution plants between the two automakers. It spared Ford from additional strike activity, saying progress had been made in talks with the company.
Following President Biden’s visit to the picket lines Tuesday, Fain gave an update on how talks were going.
“We’re moving with all three companies still. It’s slower, but it’s bargaining,” he said. “Some days, you feel like you make two steps forward, the next day you take a step back. Things are moving, but we just have to see.
“We may have to amp up the pressure.”
Fox Business’ Breck Dumas contributed to this report.