Joe Biden is making a historic visit Tuesday to striking auto workers, an electorate that Donald Trump plans to address the next day by also traveling to the region cradle of this industry.
The campaigning Democrat will become the first sitting president to go to a picket line in Michigan, the epicenter of an unprecedented strike movement that affects three giants of the sector: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. He thus grills the spotlight to his Republican rival who has planned to go Wednesday to the same state to court the blue-collar workers, on whom he intends to base his reconquest of the White House. Enough to make this already historic strike a subject of political battle.
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Donald Trump, who had announced his trip before that of Joe Biden, has also accused the Democratic president of copying him. And his spokesman Jason Miller called Biden's visit "nothing more than a poor photo op." But according to White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, the US president's trip is "absolutely not" influenced by that of the Republican.
For Joe Biden, the challenge is to prove that he is instead the president of the working classes, defender of the unions and architect of the industrial renewal of the United States. "His trip is going to be historic. It will underscore how the president is the most pro-union in history" of the United States, Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.
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But the octogenarian, struggling in the polls and now gauged at each trip on his physical state, is walking on eggshells: the ongoing social conflict could prove very damaging to the American economy. And the strike has spread to the automakers General Motors and Stellantis, for lack of progress in union negotiations, unlike Ford where "real progress" has been made.
Joe Biden has repeatedly publicly said that manufacturers must pass on their "record profits" to employees. Asked if the president was taking sides in the labor dispute, the White House spokeswoman preferred to sidestep the questions, insisting that Joe Biden wanted above all a "win-win" agreement. "We are not involved in negotiations," she added.
«Take your jobs»
Joe Biden has made his support for unions a hallmark of his tenure, and the UAW autoworkers' endorsement of his 2020 candidacy helped him swing Michigan in his favor, while the state voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
However, the Democrat's administration is one of the drivers of the historic upheaval that the auto industry is experiencing, towards more greener vehicles. "When he walks slowly to pretend to be on a 'picket', remember that he wants to take your jobs and send them to China," Donald Trump accused on Truth Social, not skimping on the capital letters he likes to use.
Hopes of a return to the White House for the Republican rest largely on the same blue-collar votes he won in 2016 in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
On the Democratic side, however, the pro-union commitment of the billionaire real estate mogul is questioned.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump will speak in front of a factory that manufactures spare parts in Clinton Township, Michigan, according to his campaign team, a little more than 60 km from where Joe Biden will have visited the day before.