Trump gets UAW endorsement as Biden criticizes EVs in Michigan

  • Former President Donald Trump tried to woo blue-collar auto workers Wednesday night by criticizing electric vehicles and warning of the unfounded demise of the U.S. auto industry.
  • Trump repeatedly asked members of the United Auto Workers during the nearly hour-long speech to encourage union leaders to endorse him.
  • Trump’s visit comes after the sides failed to reach tentative agreements as the UAW continued targeted strikes against General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellandis.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally focused on auto workers at auto supplier Drake Enterprises on September 27, 2023 in Clinton Township, Michigan.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

CLINTON TWP., Mich. — Former President Donald Trump tried to woo blue-collar auto workers on Wednesday night, criticizing electric vehicles and warning of unfounded doom for the U.S. auto industry. .

“Tell your UAW leaders — no problem with them — but they have to support Trump,” he said Wednesday night during a rally focused on auto workers at a non-union auto parts supplier in suburban Detroit.

Trump, the front-runner among Republicans in the 2024 presidential race, repeatedly encouraged the UAW to support him during the nearly hour-long speech. He did so by mocking President Joe Biden and promising to save the U.S. auto industry from what he described as destruction by current Democratic Party policies, including the push for EVs.

At one point, Trump said he doesn’t care about EVs, but he believes consumers will be able to choose between such vehicles and traditional gasoline and diesel models. He criticized Biden’s goal that half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 be EVs, as well as the automobile industry’s current dependence on China for batteries and other components.

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally focused on auto workers at auto supplier Drake Enterprises on September 27, 2023 in Clinton Township, Michigan.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

“If you want to buy an electric car, that’s totally fine. I’m all for it,” Trump said. “But we shouldn’t force consumers to buy electric vehicles they don’t want to buy.”

Trump’s visit comes as the UAW continues targeted strikes against General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellandis. The two sides failed to reach tentative agreements by 11:59 p.m. before contracts for 146,000 UAW members with Detroit automakers expire on Sept. 14.

Currently, about 18,300 UAW members are on strike with the Detroit automakers, and the union has warned of additional strikes without significant progress in talks by Friday.

Trump mentioned striking union workers and negotiations several times during his speech, focusing on how negotiations won’t matter if the auto industry is destroyed.

“In two years you’re all going to be out of business because it’s not going to make a big difference to what you’re getting,” Trump said.

A UAW spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump’s comments after the event, which the former president attended instead of the second GOP debate.

UAW President Sean Fine slammed Trump and his visit to Michigan after appearing with Biden at a UAW picket line in suburban Detroit on Tuesday afternoon.

The outspoken union leader has previously criticized Trump’s record with auto unions and criticized the fact that Trump’s visit Wednesday will be at Drake Enterprises, a non-union company.

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“I find it a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a non-union business,” Fein said in an interview Tuesday. Night on CNN. “All you have to do is look at his track record — his track record speaks for itself.”

While the UAW has historically supported Democrats, including Biden, in 2020, Fine is stopping short of a union overhaul by a president who has “made himself the most pro-union president in American history” over concerns about EVs.

Fine called the president joining the picket line a “historic moment” with Biden at the Willow Run Redistricting Center. But he did not officially endorse the commander for next year’s presidential election.

Fine has repeatedly said he believes another Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” but the former president has the support of many rank-and-file union members.

Brian Pannebecker, who retired after more than 30 years at Chrysler and Ford, is a staunch Trump supporter. He said the UAW and auto workers should support Trump because of Trump’s past trade policies and stance on EVs.

“Donald Trump will not push this kind of EV mandate on companies or consumers,” he said at Wednesday’s rally.

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