This week, President Joe Biden visited the United Auto Workers’ strike in Michigan — becoming the first president to ever walk a picket line.
Last Saturday, I got in my union-made Ford Bronco at home in Braddock, Pennsylvania, and drove 290 miles to Wayne, Michigan — from one union town to another — to walk the picket line with those same workers. I made the trip just two days after about 12,700 UAW members at Big Three assembly plants went on strike to demand better pay and better benefits.
I showed up to make clear to these brave workers at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant — the same workers who built my Ford Bronco — that I have their backs. And Biden sent the same message when he walked their picket line.
Union workers built this country, and they work every day to keep it running.
Union workers didn’t just build the car that got me to Michigan. They also built and maintain many of the roads I drove on to get there. They make the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the steel used in the buildings we live and work in. They deliver our mail, and they teach our children.
Put simply, union workers built this country, and they work every day to keep it running. The least we can do is support them when they stand up and demand to be treated and paid fairly.
That’s why I showed up in Michigan, and it’s why I showed up in Erie, Pennsylvania, over the summer to stand alongside 1,400 employees with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America who were striking at the locomotive manufacturer Wabtec.
I’m unapologetically pro-worker, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk to one another to try to find solutions. I walked the picket line with United Electrical workers and spoke with the union to hear about the real needs of workers and their families. Then I spoke with Wabtec management to lay out what I’d learned and to hear about the company’s own position, aiming to find a solution and win a deal that worked for the workers.
Turns out, if you cut the BS and keep talking seriously, you can get a lot accomplished. While it took longer than anyone would have wanted, Wabtec management ultimately came to the table, recognized the value of their workers and negotiated in good faith. The resulting deal guaranteed pay raises and satisfied both sides.
What I heard when I visited striking workers in Erie is the same as what I heard in Wayne: These people don’t want to strike, they want to work.
In Erie, we saw what is possible when a company steps up and makes a true effort to find a deal. And the company, the workers and the country will be stronger because of it.
It’s time for the Big Three — Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis — to follow Wabtec’s lead and do what’s right.
What I heard when I visited striking workers in Michigan is the same as what I heard in Pennsylvania: These people don’t want to strike, they want to work. But they know they deserve a share of the incredible wealth they create. Their concessions helped save the companies during the 2008 recession, and their sweat and toil helped the companies’ profits nearly double in the last 10 years.
The autoworkers’ demands are far from crazy — they’re just what the workers rightfully deserve. The CEOs at these three auto companies make more than 281 times what the median worker at the company makes. Let me be clear: I know what CEOs do and I know what workers do, and an hour of a CEO’s time is certainly not worth 281 times more than an hour of a worker’s time actually building the cars and trucks on the factory floor.
The three CEOs raked in more than $74 million combined in 2022 — money made on the backs and by the hands of the union workers on the factory floor. And then they’re dumbfounded when these workers ask for a raise? It’s ludicrous.
I mean, how many yachts do these CEOs really need? How many mansions do they need?
What’s clear is that workers will not get what they deserve unless they demand it. That’s not new — it’s the only way workers have ever gotten what they’re owed.
So that’s what they’re doing.
Wabtec workers in Erie, Pennsylvania. Newspaper workers at the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh. Teamsters at UPS. Writers at SAG-AFTRA. Ford workers in Wayne, Michigan. General Motors workers in Wentzville, Missouri. Stellantis workers in Toledo, Ohio. Across the country, workers are fighting, and workers are winning. And until every single worker is treated with dignity and paid what they deserve, we must all have their backs.