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United Auto Workers (UAW) striking for better wages and working conditions had an eventful weekend, with President Biden announcing he would join them and at least one group of strikers facing racial slurs on the picket line.
A fight broke out in Detroit on Friday between a group of mostly Black striking workers and a couple who drove past allegedly hurling racial slurs.
Video captured by a SkyFOX helicopter camera and shared on social media showed the group of strikers confronting a man after he got out of his car to insult the strikers, according to Fox 2 Detroit.
President to join UAW strikers
Meanwhile, President Biden announced that he would join strikers in Michigan on Tuesday.
“Tuesday, I’ll go to Michigan to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create,” Biden said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
His visit comes just one day before his 2024 presidential rival Donald Trump will give a primetime speech in Detroit. Trump hasn’t officially taken a side in the strike, but he blasted Biden for his investment in electric vehicle production, which requires less workers.
“Crooked Joe sold them down the river with his ridiculous all Electric Car Hoax,” Trump wrote on Truth Social after Biden’s announcement that he would join strikers.
What the UAW strikers are demanding
The UAW, which represents over 146,000 car manufacturing workers, launched a strike on Sept. 15 against the big three major car companies (General Motors, Stellantis and Ford).
They’re demanding a 32-hour work week with 40 hours of pay, restoring benefit pensions for new hires, a return of cost-of-living pay raises and a 36% pay increase over four years.
Currently, assembly plant workers at the top pay scale earn $32 an hour, but the salary for General Motors CEO Mary Barra has put a spotlight on the disparities between worker and boss.
Earning $29 million, Barra is the highest-paid CEO of the three big car companies. Over the last four years she’s earned a 34% increase in her salary.
Facing pressure to accept the UAW strikers’ demands, Barra defended her salary in an interview with CNN.
“My compensation, 92 per cent of it is based on the performance of the company,” Barra said on Friday. “One of the strong aspects of the way our compensation for our represented employees is designed is not only are we putting a 20 percent increase on the table. We have profit sharing. When the company does well, everybody does well.”
Standing up to “corporate greed”
Utilizing a new technique called the “Stand Up Strike,” the union has been calling on only certain workers at select factories to walk off the job instead of all at once. The tactic has led to confusion among CEOs who are unable to determine which workers will strike at any given time.
Over 38 locations across 20 states have faced UAW strikes in recent days at a time when industries across the economy are witnessing similar worker actions.
“For the last 40 years, the billionaire class has been taking everything and leaving everybody else to fight for the scraps,” UAW president Shawn Fain said in a speech. He represents tens of thousands of UAW strikers.
“We are not the problem. Corporate greed is the problem.”