Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the union leadership’s support for President Joe Biden does not factor into their opinions about the 2024 presidential election.
UAW President Shawn Fain announced on Wednesday that the union was endorsing Biden in the 2024 presidential election, despite attempts by former President Donald Trump to woo leadership over. The DCNF spoke with rank-and-file autoworkers about the union’s support for Biden, who said that many members do not plan to vote for the president due to his views on trade and electric vehicles (EV), and that union leadership does not share the same interests as workers.
Joe Pizzimenti has been an hourly worker at Ford’s Sterling Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, for 30 years and has been a UAW member the whole time. He told the DCNF that the members he works with are independent thinkers who support their union representation, but do not feel pressured to vote based on a UAW endorsement.
“The endorsement is not a big deal to me because I can think for myself — and I’m not alone,” Pizzimenti told the DCNF. “I support my labor union and happily pay my dues each month, but I can figure out the ballot on my own.”
“Many of my coworkers and I see the Biden administration as hostile to the American auto industry and, thus, to the interests of UAW members,” Pizzimenti continued. “Worse, many of us see the policies of the Democrats as hostile to middle-class Americans and certainly to our families.”
Nelson Westrick has been a member of UAW Local 228 for more than 27 years and also works at the Ford Sterling Axle Plant, noting that he does not consider himself a Republican, but rather an America First Trump supporter.
“I personally hired in almost 28 years ago, and at the time, anyone who didn’t vote [Democrat] didn’t really speak out about politics because the plant population was very heavily dominated by [Democrats]; I’d say it was around 85% [Democrat] and 15% [Republican] in those days,” Westrick told the DCNF. “The current status is that people are now very outspoken with support toward Trump, wearing Trump hats, shirts and other garb.”
“We don’t put a lot of credence into what the upper UAW echelon says; it was only a matter of a few years back that around 15 of them went to federal prison for robbing us members, and it was probably going on for decades,” Westerick continued.
UAW members are still distrustful of union leadership after it was revealed that a number of union officials were involved in a corruption scandal that resulted in 15 convictions by the end of 2020. Two former UAW presidents were found to have embezzled hundreds of thousands in union dues between 2010 and 2019.
Another UAW member, Chris, currently works as a Stellantis employee in their technology center in Michigan and has been involved with the union since 1994. He resonates with Trump’s trade policy, seeing it as leveling the U.S. with the global playing field, and also strongly detests the corruption of the UAW’s past leader, even having lobbied fellow union members to vote for Shawn Fain as an anti-corruption candidate.
“Shawn Fain was the first UAW president in its history elected directly by the membership, but keep in mind the alternative choice was someone who held office during the time of corruption but was never charged,” Chris told the DCNF. “So his 500-vote victory was not so much a wholehearted endorsement but rather a rejection of past corruption. I am incredibly disappointed that Shawn Fain, the reform candidate who I lobbied my coworkers to vote for, continues the insanity of a blind endorsement of Democratic candidates. It’s as obvious as the nose on your face that being taken for granted results in no progress on the systemic problems faced by American workers in a global market. With President Trump, we had someone who was an advocate for fair trade, not just the free trade giveaways of American industry. He did exactly what foreign leadership does… prioritize the people he was elected to represent.”
“A lobster doesn’t need to know the boiling point of water to realize he’s being cooked,” Chris told the DCNF. “And that’s how I would describe it; my coworkers might not necessarily understand the mechanics of how it’s being done, but they know the federal government has shown very little interest in the industrial Midwest for decades. One need look no further than Flint or Detroit.”
The Biden administration has butted heads with the UAW in the past over the president’s push to have half of all new vehicles be electric by 2030, worrying autoworkers that their current jobs may be eliminated. Fain noted in August 2023 that EV jobs provide lower wages, calling the jobs at one plant “poverty-level,” criticizing Biden over his support.
“Almost all fellow workers do not like Biden, but that does not mean they like Trump,” Andy Moreau, a millwright for 31 years at the Ford Sterling Axle Plant, told the DCNF. “I feel UAW leaders don’t need to speak for me. I work in an axle plant and know electric vehicles don’t have rear axles. A lot of people on the plant floor supports Trump or are Republicans but don’t talk about it openly.”
Trump has attempted to gain favor with blue-collar workers like those represented by the UAW, with the former president skipping the second GOP primary debate in September to speak at a rally in Detroit, Michigan, instead. The presidential hopeful also met with Sean O’Brien, president of the more than one million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in January to discuss “important issues” for workers.
Brian Pannebecker is a retired UAW member who worked at both Chrysler and Ford in Michigan and started Auto Workers For Trump before the 2016 presidential election. He emphasized the incentives the union gives to local leadership positions, noting that members can gain benefits from union positions by campaigning for UAW’s preferred candidate.
“I would say over the last 15-20 years, the workers have become much more sophisticated in terms of realizing and looking at the political parties, instead of just falling in line and saying, ‘Well, my dad always voted Democrat, my grandpa always voted Democrat.’ Now they’re starting to look at these politicians and say, ‘Well, our jobs have been going to Mexico. Our plants have been closing.’ This has been going on for 20-30 years now and Democrats have been calling the shots. So they’re wising up and saying ‘no.’ A guy like Reagan or Trump comes along, and they speak our language.”
The UAW and the Biden campaign did not respond to a request to comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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