Former UAW leader: Biden must 'take action' to pressure companies for fair wages, benefits

A former president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union pressured President Biden to do more to assist striking auto workers, saying a lot of what he has done so far is just talk.

“I think [Biden] should have done a lot more already,” former UAW president Bob King told NewsNation‘s Chris Cuomo on Friday. “I’m happy he came out with a statement yesterday… but words are not the issue. You need to take actions.”

“What actions is he going to take to really pressure those corporations to give the workers what they deserve?” King asked.

UAW began a strike against the “Big Three” automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — early Friday morning after negotiations were fruitless before the workers’ contracts ended. The union is demanding increased wages, shorter work weeks and better retirement benefits, among other things.

“There’s a lot of anger and a lot of frustration in the UAW members because they see the corporations doing so well, they see the CEOs make 40 percent or more increases in their pay, and what I’m really proud of — the highest seniority members are as angry about this as the lowest seniority,” King said.

“Everybody in there knows it’s wrong to have people making different rates of pay for long, sustained periods of time doing the same exact job,” he added.

The Biden administration has backed the strike — the first in the union’s history — and President Biden encouraged automakers to return to the bargaining table with an increased offer on Friday.

“I believe they should go further… Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW,” Biden said. 

King backed current UAW President Shawn Fain’s decision not to endorse Biden for the 2024 election over concerns about federal electric vehicle (EV) policy. The former union head said too many EV jobs are moving out of areas where unions are strong, like Detroit, and into southern states with less union influence and more tax breaks for automakers.

He said he supported Fain’s decision not to endorse Biden “until he starts delivering.”

“It was a tremendous slap in the face to the UAW to give billions of dollars to these corporations,” King added.

The UAW orchestrated small-scale, randomized strikes instead of a mass general strike. The union chose three plants, revealed just two hours before the strike began, to walk out starting at midnight Friday.

Fain explained that the strategy was meant to “keep the companies guessing.”

Profits at the Big Three automakers increased by 92 percent in the last decade, totaling $250 billion, according to an analysis released Tuesday. CEO compensation rose by 40 percent through the same period.

The union reportedly rejected the latest counteroffers from all three automakers, which say the workers’ demands are not realistic and unaffordable, in part due to the cost of the shift to electric vehicles.

“We are committed to winning an agreement with the Big Three that reflects the incredible sacrifice and contributions UAW members have made to these companies,” Fain said in his Thursday address.

NewsNation is owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also owns The Hill. 

The Hill’s Taylor Giorno contributed to this report.

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