HomePoliticsSidelined by UAW strikes, Biden White House talks economic aid

Sidelined by UAW strikes, Biden White House talks economic aid

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the UAW strike enters its fifth day, the Biden administration is hampered by a lack of legal authority to guide the talks and is struggling to figure out UAW President Shawn Fain’s negotiating strategy or gain a clear insight into his leadership style. say three sources.

The Biden White House is holding discussions on ways to ease the economic fallout from a prolonged auto worker strike, the sources said, as U.S. officials acknowledge they have a limited role to play in talks between General Motors, Ford and Chrysler owner Stellantis and the union.

Top administration officials have held multiple calls with union leaders, Michigan lawmakers, business leaders, suppliers, outside labor consultants and economists in the lead-up to the strike to discuss relief for workers, suppliers and the local state economy as both sides continue negotiations. , one of the sources said.

The White House has launched an “interagency process” to study the economic impact of the strike, with a focus on workers, said a fourth source familiar with the matter, describing the process as “routine.”

The White House and administration have discussed “mitigation efforts” in the event of a full work stoppage, and not in response to actions currently taken by the union, two sources said.

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White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson said “no decision has been made” on providing relief or reducing the economic impact.

On Friday, Biden clearly sided with the union, telling automakers to make more concessions to workers who left their jobs at Detroit’s biggest auto companies and share record profits fairly, and said he would send two of his top executives to Detroit to support both parties. the negotiations.

But he was rebuked by the UAW’s Fain, who said that “this fight is not about the president,” and the two officials, Gene Sperling, and acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, were still in Washington on Monday evening.

A White House official said: “Their goal is not to intervene or serve as a mediator, but to help support negotiations in a way that both sides believe is constructive.”

“No one has read anything about Fain,” says Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations. “He’s not just a stranger to the Biden administration, but a stranger to all the big three,” he said, referring to the automakers.

Fain led the UAW for less than six months.

Fain, whose union has not yet endorsed any 2024 presidential candidates, also rejected Republican Donald Trump’s requests.

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“Every fiber of our union is being used to fight the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said after Trump said he would come to Detroit on September 27 to speak.


Top officials such as National Economic Council deputy director Joelle Gamble have recently held calls with auto suppliers, the sources said.

Aid to suppliers has been tossed around “ever since it became clear there could be a strike,” but those talks are “premature and fluid,” one of the sources said.

The White House believes the largest Tier 1 suppliers will still be able to weather the storm, but smaller companies in the supply chain will struggle if the strike lasts more than six to eight weeks, one of the sources said.

The U.S. strike could slow a better-performing U.S. economy if it continues — even risking the first monthly net decline in payroll employment in nearly three years — but it is unlikely to trigger a recession on its own, economists say.

Urging original equipment manufacturers to ramp up production and reduce the impact on the country’s supply chains has also been discussed by the industry in these calls, two sources said.

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The White House has also talked to Michigan lawmakers about ways to limit the impact a strike would have on the state’s economy, which has suffered from rising transportation costs, wage inflation and Covid-19, the sources said.

Concerns discussed included job losses and layoffs, a decline in personal income, lower state tax revenues, demand for electric vehicles and how wage increases should keep pace with inflation, the sources said.

The discussions about the economic consequences did not just start. White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients met with the AFL-CIO executive council at headquarters in July to discuss “core labor issues” and what the administration can do to support workers, one of the sources said. A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO had no comment.

In addition to Sperling, Su, Gamble and Zients, top White House officials involved in the effort include National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard, Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon and adviser to President Steve Ricchetti.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, additional reporting by David Shepardson. Editing by Heather Timmons and Nick Zieminski)

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