Yesterday, President Biden walked the picket line with striking United Auto Workers union members in a show of support for their demands to “Detroit Three” automakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler). He is the first president ever to join a union strike, a testament to how unions are a big part of Biden’s political persona, his reelection strategy, and his economic policies, which emphasize bolstering unionized U.S. manufacturing operations through a range of strings-attached industrial subsidies—especially for the electric vehicles that the UAW and Detroit Three are trying to make. As a result, and given the political and economic stakes (and drama) involved, the UAW strike has received ample media coverage (including here at The Dispatch).
Less mentioned, however, is that the UAW’s demands and actions aren’t just costly; they might—given the economics and recent history—actually speed the demise of the companies at issue, and thus the UAW itself. If so, the president’s own policies must share some of the blame.
Recapping the UAW Demands
With the obvious disclaimer that negotiations are fluid and terms can and do change, the UAW has demanded not only a 40 percent wage increase, but also the restoration of traditional pensions, cost-of-living increases (so that wages automatically rise with inflation), reducing the work week from 40 to 32 hours, increasing retiree benefits, and even a provision ensuring “that workers at closed plants would be paid at the same rate to conduct community service.”