- by cnn
- 29 Nov 2023
It seems like everyone is hitting the picket lines these days. And this past week, for the first time ever, that included a sitting president of the United States.
President Joe Biden's unprecedented visit to the United Auto Workers picket line on Tuesday only brought more attention to the already high-profile strike by the UAW against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. The picketer-in-chief urged on the strikers in the push for better contracts.
"You guys saved the automobile industry," he said into a bullhorn on the picket line. "You made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot when the companies were in trouble. Now they're doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too."
Biden's brief remarks played on the sense of frustration many workers, both union and nonunion, have been feeling in recent years. The pandemic prompted reassessments of career paths, job demands and work-life balance. And a tight labor market gave many the courage to leave and search for other opportunities.
But the 6% of US workers represented by a union had another outlet: to bargain for a better contract, or, if refused, to go on strike.
"It's been a good year for unions," said Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations school in Buffalo, New York. "You've seen a lot of successes, and that will help going forward. I give them a B+. Not an A."
Even before Biden's appearance, the UAW strike was historic because it's the first time the union has walked out of all three unionized automakers at the same time.
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