President Joe Biden arrives in Michigan to walk UAW picket line

Posted at 10:18 PM, Sep 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-26 23:04:25-04

VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — President Joe Biden arrived just before 12:30 p.m. at Detroit Metro Airport and was greeted by UAW President Shawn Fain, Reps. Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib and Shri Thanedar, plus Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

On day four of United Auto Workers striking outside General Motors’ Willow Run Redistribution Center in Van Buren Township, union members manned the gates, making it clear what they’re fighting for.

With his daughter in one arm and a sign in the other, 10-year UAW member Mark Irizarry says he’s out there fighting for his family along with those members making lower pay. The newly selected strike targets represent many tiered workers.

“The other gentleman that's here with me is on a tier system and it's not fair he gets paid so much less than I do,” Irizarry said. “The tier system is the biggest (piece of negotiations) and also the abuse they've been giving us. Working seven days a week, 12 hour days, we can barely see our family.”

What UAW workers are saying ahead of President Joe Biden's visit

Irizarry plans to return early Tuesday in anticipation for a visit from President Joe Biden. The White House says he will join a picket line at a facility in Wayne County, calling the trip historic. The exact timing and location of his visit haven't been disclosed as of Monday night.

“This is a president that has made it very clear that corporate profit should lead to a record UAW contract,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Irizarry said, “Him coming out here and showing his support for the UAW and not only that, our families as well, it’s a good thing.”

While the trip keeps the UAW’s fight in the spotlight, Wayne State University professor Marick Masters feels it will have little impact on current negotiations. However, he thinks Biden might use it in the future if the strike reaches a stalemate.

“It’s probably not going to have any material effect on the negotiations nor is it going to have any material effect on other political developments,” Masters said. “What I think it does is sets a predicate however, should he want to become more involved at a later date in negotiations in order to resolve a dispute that goes on for a long period of time. He might be able to say to the union: look, I stood with you, but now it's come time to put aside the differences and come up with an agreement we can live with.’”

“What do you hope to hear him (Biden) say?” 7 Action News reporter Brett Kast asked Irizarry.

“That he’s got our back,” Irizarry responded. “That he's going to sit down and see if he can get with one of these CEOs and say enough is enough.”

In the meantime, Iizarry says he welcomes support from the current president and former President Donald Trump, who also has a visit scheduled Wednesday. Irizarry hopes their support swings momentum in the union’s favor.

“That means a lot to us. Hopefully, their words work,” Irizarry said. “It teaches these people and the CEO that these people are the heart and soul of our working class, so let’s go ahead and take care of them.”

Though the exact timing and location of Biden’s visit to the picket is still unknown, UAW President Shawn Fain is expected to join Biden when he arrives.