WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is asking major U.S. automakers and their unions to reach an agreement that takes “every step possible to avoid painful plant closures” as the industry transitions to electric vehicles.
The president has yet to get past the United Auto Workers as he seeks re-election, despite his broad support from the organized labor movement in the 2024 campaign. The UAW represents 146,000 employees at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, who are widely known as the three major car manufacturers. The workers’ contracts expire on September 14 at 11:59 p.m.
Biden said in a statement Monday that as the market moves away from gasoline-powered vehicles, the auto industry still needs to provide “good jobs that can support a family” and make sure “transitions are fair and looking at refurbishment, restart and rehiring in the same factories and communities at similar wages, while giving existing workers the first opportunity to fill those jobs.
“The UAW helped create the American middle class and as we move forward in this transition to new technologies, the UAW deserves a contract that supports the middle class,” Biden said.
Union president Shawn Fain has called for an end to the different pay scales among workers. He is also seeking double-digit pay increases and cost-of-living recovery, defined benefit plans for all employees, and health insurance recovery for retirees. The union has proposed a 32-hour work week, instead of the conventional 40 hours.
Faced with the risk of a possible strike, automakers have said they will face development costs as the industry transitions to electric cars and spends billions of dollars building battery factories.