President Biden, during a recent appearance in Illinois, celebrated a landmark labor deal that saved a Stellantis manufacturing plant and consolidated crucial union support. He sported a red United Automobile Workers T-shirt and emphasized his longstanding involvement with the U.A.W.
The president’s speech was a victory lap after the union successfully negotiated a contract with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, securing pay increases and the reopening of the Belvidere, Ill., plant.
Despite concerns from workers about the impact of the president’s climate change agenda on their jobs, Mr. Biden advocated for clean energy and contrasted his stance with that of former President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Biden highlighted how during the previous administration, six factories were closed and tens of thousands of auto jobs were lost, while the future of electric vehicles was neglected. He refuted claims by his predecessor that electric vehicles would lead to job losses, pointing out the record gains and job commitments achieved by autoworkers.
The National Labor Relations Board’s pro-corporate stance during the Trump administration and its antagonism towards unions was also noted. Mr. Biden’s administration has proposed ambitious climate regulations aimed at increasing the adoption of electric vehicles, which could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are concerns about the potential impact on autoworkers, as electric vehicles require fewer laborers to assemble and new manufacturing plants for electric vehicle parts are often in states hostile to unions.
Mr. Biden commended union leaders, particularly praising Shawn Fain, the president of the U.A.W., for his role in saving the automobile industry. However, Mr. Fain did not offer the president the endorsement of the union, expressing reservations about the administration’s push for electric vehicles.
The relationship between Mr. Biden and Mr. Fain improved after the president joined striking autoworkers in Michigan, and they subsequently had several conversations, including one where Mr. Biden called to wish Mr. Fain a happy birthday.
The transition to electric vehicles will likely require new factories for battery production but could result in fewer suppliers producing parts and the need for retraining assembly workers. This transition has raised mixed emotions among former assembly line workers, such as Kristine Lynn, who expressed uncertainty about the future of her job given the changes brought about by the shift to clean energy and electric vehicles.