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UAW strike: 'Trump is standing with the corporate elite against workers'

Berry Craig
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American Federation of Teachers

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain isn't alone in seeing through Donald Trump's planned visit with striking Autoworkers in Detroit next Wednesday.

"Donald Trump has never done anything for union members in this country," said Kirk Gillenwaters, a Louisville UAW 862 retiree and president of the Kentucky Alliance for Retired Americans.

Fain hasn't exactly rolled out the welcome mat for the former president. Trump is ducking the second GOP presidential debate to con autoworkers in the Motor City.

"Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” the UAW head said in statement. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”

The stunt is vintage Trump--all style, no substance.

"Former president Donald Trump has an opinion on the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Big Three auto manufacturers that began at midnight on Friday," Paul Prescod wrote in Jacobin. "Surely the self-styled populist, whose political brand rests on claiming to champion American manufacturing workers, extends his full-throated support to the union, right? Think again.

"Instead, Trump framed workers’ economic fight against corporate giants Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis as a partisan skirmish, lumping the UAW in with Joe Biden. In a statement delivered late last month, Trump railed against UAW leadership, claiming, 'Autoworkers are getting totally ripped off by crooked Joe Biden and also their horrendous leadership. Because these people are allowing our country to do these electric vehicles that very few people want.'”

Prescod added that Trump wants autoworkers to quit paying their union dues. At the same time, he is playing another standby union-busting card: divide the rank-and-file from their elected leaders. Prescod quoted the former president: “I’m telling you, you shouldn’t pay those dues because they’re selling you to hell. Don’t listen to these union people who get paid a lot of money. They get wined and dined in Washington, they know that electric cars are no good in terms of our workers.” 

Said Gillenwaters: "That's exactly who Donald Trump is: anti-union. People should wake up to the fact that he is against unions being able to negotiate on behalf of workers." 

Consumer demand is driving increased production of electric vehicles. "Whether we as workers want to accept it or not, they are the future of automobile production," Gillenwaters said. 

"Automakers are committed to rapidly scaling their production of EVs in response to government and investor pressure to cut carbon emissions and slow climate change," explained NPR's Camilla Domonoske. "The United Auto Workers union is not trying to resist this transition."

She quoted Fain: "We support a green economy. You know, we have to get behind this. We have to have a planet that we can live on."

But the UAW president also said it's crucial that during the shift to EVs, assembly line and battery workers are fairly compensated. Fain warned, "If we don't secure this work and we don't secure it at ... Big Three standards, it's not going to be a good future for anyone."

Gillenwaters pointed to some other quotes from Fain on Trump: 

-- "He was on the air the other day encouraging people to stop paying union dues. That's not someone who stands for a good standard of living."

-- "I'll never forget, leading up to the (2016) election, that candidate talking about doing a rotation where they need to come to places like Michigan and the Midwest, and send our jobs somewhere else where they pay less money and make us be begging for our jobs down the road. That's not something that works for working-class people, and sure as hell not for UAW workers."

Journalist Alex Wagner sketched Trump's anti-union record on her MSNBC cable TV show Tuesday night. She pointed out that he "spent four years in office distinguishing himself as the most anti-union president of the last three decades. He appointed Eugene Scalia [son of right-wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia], one of the nation's top anti-union lawyers, to be his secretary of labor. Under Trump's administration, the National Labor Relations Board implemented sweeping new rules that made it harder for workers to form unions--rules, by the way, that Joe Biden reversed when he took office."

Wagner also said Trump "packed the courts with anti-labor judges--people like Thomas Farr, who spent his career bringing cases before the courts to weaken unions...made it harder for workers to earn overtime and he gutted the federal agency in charge of workplace safety."

On the other hand, Wagner said, "President Biden has pushed a decidedly pro-labor agenda since taking office. He has voiced support for striking Autoworkers' demands; he has met with workers unionizing big businesses including Amazon and Starbucks and even as Republicans continue to block President Biden's pro-union candidate for secretary of labor [Acting Secretary Julie Su], the Biden administration has been able to dramatically expand union rights through his appointees at the National Labor Relations Board."

Concluded Prescod: "By choosing to attack the UAW and mischaracterize the stakes, Trump is standing with the corporate elite against workers."