A reminder that this is without precedent:
President Joe Biden on Tuesday became the first sitting president to join a picket line with striking workers, vividly demonstrating his commitment to labor and its central role in his reelection campaign.
The president, donning a blue hat with a United Auto Workers symbol, stood on a wooden platform and used a bull horn to speak to the crowd of union members dressed in red. He was flanked by United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.
“The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going,” the president told the crowd. “You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”
Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement represented a tectonic shift for an office historically known for breaking strikes, not supporting them.
Strikes are painful affairs for unions and companies alike, but that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from making plans to go to Detroit next week to try to make political hay out of the United Auto Workers’ historic strike. The former president is planning a prime-time speech before 500 workers that will trumpet the message that he has “always had their back”.
As with so many Trump pronouncements, that is appalling poppycock. During Trump’s four years as president, he and his administration did far more to stab workers in their backs.
Trump didn’t lift a finger to increase the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at a pathetically low $7.25 an hour since 2009. And he certainly didn’t have workers’ backs when he scrapped Barack Obama’s move to expand overtime coverage, thereby denying 8 million workers the ability to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay.
If Trump is a friend of workers, why did his administration repeatedly do what corporate lobbyists asked for instead of what worker advocates wanted? Trump made it easier for Wall Street to cheat workers by scrapping the “fiduciary” rule that required investment firms to act in the best interests of workers and retirees in handling their 401ks. Showing little concern about worker safety, Trump moved to relax rules for coal mine inspections and roll back safety requirements for oil rig workers. His administration even reversed the ban on a toxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, that causes acute reactions in farmworkers and neurological damage to children.
In a big favor to corporate America, Trump rolled back rules that made it harder to award federal contracts to companies that were repeat violators of wage laws, sexual harassment laws, racial discrimination laws, or laws protecting workers’ right to unionize. Then, in a favor to financial firms, Trump repealed regulations that aimed to prevent payday lenders from preying on financially strapped workers.
The idea that he’s some kind of economic populist is the most egregious con a lifetime con man has ever pulled off.