By Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will meet with Shawn Fain, the head of the United Auto Workers, in Illinois on Thursday to highlight the tentative contract agreements between the union and Detroit’s Big Three Automakers that ended a nearly 45-day strike.
Biden will deliver remarks praising gains for workers in the deals the UAW won, talk about how his economic policies, dubbed “Bidenomics”, is working and highlight plans to reopen an auto factory that Stellantis wanted to close, according to the White House.
He will also meet with other UAW members, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and attend a political fundraiser.
In September, Biden joined a picket line with striking UAW workers in Michigan, where he also met Fain. The appearance was the first by a U.S. president with striking workers in modern history and showed the importance of union support in the 2024 presidential election, even though unions represent a tiny fraction of U.S. workers.
Thursday’s appearance will once again allow Biden to showcase his pro-union credentials to the UAW, which has yet to endorse Biden, making the union one of the major holdouts as other labor organizations have backed the Democratic president.
In September, UAW’s Fain ruled out meeting Trump, casting him as an out-of-touch billionaire, who does not have “any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for.”
Labor leaders and Democratic officials said an endorsement from the UAW for Biden is expected after the union’s members approve their tentative contract agreements, which dramatically raises pay for auto workers and ended a strike targeting General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the maker of Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.
The relationship between Biden and Fain “didn’t start as cozy as it is now,” said Mark Burton, a partner at the law firm of Honigman and a former chief strategist of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
But Biden taking on a “more supportive but silent role” during the UAW negotiations improved the relationship over the last few months, he said.
Biden “has formed a good working relationship with Shawn Fain and I think the near-term result will be an endorsement,” Burton said.
The White House said the meeting will take place in Belvidere, where Stellantis agreed to reopen a stalled plant and add additional jobs. The plant’s fate was a key discussion point in negotiations between the UAW and Stellantis.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)