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Jan 24, 2024, 5:58pm EST
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United Auto Workers union endorses Biden in boost for campaign

Insights from The Washington Post, Gallup, and Semafor

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President Joe Biden speaks at the United Auto Workers (UAW) union conference at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2024.
AFP via Getty Images/Saul Loeb
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The United Auto Workers union endorsed President Joe Biden on Wednesday, marking a political victory for the self-proclaimed “most pro-union president.” The endorsement could help Biden’s case in battleground states known for car manufacturing, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which the president narrowly won in 2020.

“Rarely, as a union, do you get so clear of a choice between two candidates,” UAW president Shawn Fain said Wednesday. “Joe Biden bet on the American worker, while Donald Trump blamed the American worker.”

Biden backed the UAW during its historic summer strike that created record wage increases for autoworkers, even becoming the first sitting president to join a picket line. The union used its potential support of Biden as leverage during the strike, saying its endorsements were “not going to be freely given, as they have been in the past.”

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The union vote is a big deal — and leans increasingly blue

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, Gallup, Bloomberg

“The union share of the vote is incredibly important,” a Democratic political strategist told The Washington Post, saying that in the battleground states that Biden needs to win to be reelected, “a big share of the votes [come] from union households.” About 9% of U.S. adults belong to a union, and 16% live in a union household.

About 51% of union members identified as Democrats as of last year, a Morning Consult survey found. That’s up from 40% in 2017. One glass-plant worker told Bloomberg that even in Republican-dominated Tennessee, most of the workers at his plant plan to vote for Biden and other Democrats. “He walked the picket line with us,” said Rodney Wood, vice president of the UAW’s Local 737 in Nashville. “He’s the first one we’ve had to do that.”

Trump and Biden vie for union support

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Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, Reuters

In 2016, Trump secured the highest level of union member-support for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan, The Wall Street Journal reported, helping him narrowly win key states including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. And while Trump has appealed to union members by “targeting disaffected voters in parts of the Midwest who believe the Democratic Party has left them behind,” CNN reported, Biden recaptured the union vote in 2020. He emerged from the race with a roughly 16% advantage over Trump among union members.

The two will now vie for blue-collar support as the general election approaches. Trump met earlier this month with Teamsters president Sean O’Brien, who hasn’t yet issued an endorsement in this race. The Teamsters, which represent more than 1.3 million workers, endorsed Biden in 2020.

Biden seeks to capitalize on Republican anti-union sentiment

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Sources:  
Semafor, Fox News

Some Republican presidential candidates criticized UAW and unions as a whole during the UAW’s summer strike, with Nikki Haley saying Biden’s pro-union stance had “emboldened” organizations to strike, in an interview with Fox News. That response “frustrated conservative populists, who see this as a moment for Biden’s challengers to articulate what they’d do for workers,” Semafor’s David Weigel reported.

“It really underscores the extent to which there just is no useful thinking about these issues on the old right,” the executive director of conservative think tank American Compass told Weigel. But it was great for Biden’s campaign, which quickly stitched together a video of Nikki Haley and Tim Scott denouncing the president’s pro-union stances and jokingly presented them as an endorsement.

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