labor Trump Feud With UAW Reaches Fever Pitch
Former President Trump’s feud with the head of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has reached a fever pitch since the union endorsed President Biden last week.
The UAW backed Biden’s bid for reelection at the union’s conference in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday, after previously withholding its endorsement over concerns about the administration’s push toward electric vehicles.
While touting Biden’s record on labor, UAW President Shawn Fain also took aim at Trump, slamming the former president as a “scab.”
“Donald Trump is a billionaire, and that’s who he represents,” Fain said. “If Donald Trump ever worked in an auto plant, he wouldn’t be a UAW member. He’d be a company man trying to squeeze the American worker. Donald Trump stands against everything we stand for as a union.”
“This choice is clear,” he added. “Joe Biden bet on the American worker while Donald Trump blamed the American worker.”
Fain hit the former president again just days later in an interview with CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” saying Trump has a “history of serving himself” while Biden has a “history of serving others” and the “working class.”
“Donald Trump has a history of serving himself and standing for the billionaire class. And that’s contrary to everything that working-class people stand for,” Fain said.
The UAW leader has clearly gotten under Trump’s skin.
The former president has since blasted Fain as a “dope” and a “stiff,” accused him of buying into Biden’s vision on EVs and selling the auto industry “right into the big, powerful hands of China.”
“Shawn Fain doesn’t understand this or have a clue,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social. “Get rid of this dope & vote for DJT. I will bring the Automobile Industry back to our Country.”
In an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo set to air Sunday, the former president dismissed the UAW as a “hopeless case” and said he never spoke with the union.
The back-and-forth with Fain comes as both Biden and Trump have turned their attention to November’s general election. While former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley remains in the GOP primary race, Trump is the clear frontrunner for the nomination, particularly after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Trump’s team has indicated that peeling off even some of Biden’s support among organized labor could make a difference in what is expected to be a close election. The former president lost union members by 8 percentage points in the 2016 election, according to exit polling, and that margin grew to 14 percentage points in 2020.
Trump is also vying to win back Michigan, the home of the U.S. auto industry, after a successful UAW strike against the Big Three automakers. Michigan broke from decades of steady Democratic support to elect Trump in 2016 before Biden flipped the state back in 2020.
While a signficant portion of UAW members may vote or Trump anyway, the former president has a steep hill to climb with union brass. Even when courting the UAW’s endorsement last year, Trump claimed rank-and-file members were being “sold down the river” by leadership.
Trump further rankled UAW leadership when he traveled to Detroit l to deliver remarks at a non-union shop during last fall’s strike.
Biden campaign officials believe the president can strongly contrast his support for the autoworkers and investments during his administration with the closure and relocation of factories during Trump’s presidency. Biden also endeared himself to UAW members by becoming the first president to march on a picket line during the union’s strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.
Winning Michigan, one of several swing states that are likely to determine November’s election, will require Biden to build a diverse coalition among union members, Black voters, young voters and other blocs. The president won the state in 2020 by 154,000 votes, but recent polls have shown him trailing Trump there.
Ahead of the state’s Feb. 27 presidential primary, Biden met with UAW members in Warren, Mich., who were phone banking in support of him.
“To me it’s a basic, basic thing, and I mean this sincerely,” he said. “Wall Street didn’t build the middle class. Labor built the middle class, and the middle class built the country.”
Amid the spat with the UAW, Trump has turned his sights on the Teamsters union, meeting with Teamsters president Sean O’Brien on Wednesday. When asked about a potential endorsement from the union, the former president suggested that “stranger things have happened.”
However, Fain said Thursday that he can’t see “any way in hell” that Trump would get a union endorsement.
“I’m not gonna try to answer for Sean O’Brien, but I would 100 percent bet that I can’t see any way in hell a union would endorse Donald Trump for president,” Fain said. “The man stands against everything that working-class people stand for, that organized labor stands for.
“You know, look, they chose to entertain visiting with candidates, and that’s a path they chose,” he added. “I mean, I saw no point in it because I look at the track record of Donald Trump.”
Fain, for his part, appears to be a key piece of the Biden team’s strategy in reaching UAW workers and working class voters more broadly. The UAW president accompanied Biden on a trip to the Detroit area on Thursday and has been a willing and capable surrogate for the president’s reelection effort.
“We know who’s been there for labor, and we sure as hell know who hasn’t,” Fain told UAW members on Thursday. “We’re going to fight like hell, and we’re going to ensure Joe Biden is the next president.”