Why White House Officials are not Attending Crucial Detroit Auto Talks: Insights and Implications

A member of the United Auto Workers stands on a picket line outside the Ford Motor Co. Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, on Sept. 15, 2023.

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The Biden administration will no longer send two important officials to Detroit this week to potentially assist in brokering a deal between striking autoworkers and the Big Three car companies, according to a White House official briefed by NBC News.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced that White House senior advisor Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su would be dispatched to support discussions between the companies and the United Auto Workers union.

However, it has been mutually agreed between the White House and the UAW that it would be better to hold virtual discussions via Zoom, said the official on Tuesday.

The official also added that Sperling and Su might still visit Detroit next week, but there are no confirmed plans for their visit. “We will continue to assess travel timing based on the progress of negotiations,” said the White House official.

During his address on Friday, Biden largely sided with the striking autoworkers, calling on Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis to share their record profits with their employees.

However, the UAW has not shown much enthusiasm towards Biden’s involvement in resolving the dispute.

Shawn Fain, the president of the union, stated in an interview with MSNBC on Monday that he does not believe the White House has a major role to play in resolving the conflict.

“This battle is not about the president,” Fain said. “It’s not about the former president or any other person prior to that. This battle is about the workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they’re fed up with going backwards.”

Currently, approximately 13,000 UAW members are on strike at three key plants in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio, marking the first time the union has targeted all three automakers simultaneously.

Fain warned on Monday that the UAW would initiate additional strikes at more Ford, GM, and Stellantis plants if there is no “serious progress” in the negotiations by midday Friday.

“Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the Big Three. We’re not waiting around, and we’re not messing around. So, noon on Friday, Sept. 22, is a new deadline,” said Fain in a video released by the union.

Biden, who often highlights his middle-class upbringing, has made it a priority to align himself closely with the labor movement. However, these strikes could test his commitment to organized labor if they expand and pose a threat of broader economic disruption as he seeks re-election.

In the meantime, former President Donald Trump has called on the UAW to endorse his 2024 presidential bid, while simultaneously criticizing the union’s leadership.

Trump has decided to skip the GOP primary debate next week and instead plans to visit Detroit to engage with union members.


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