Sep. 16--WASHINGTON -- While the White House and President Donald Trump remained noncommittal on the prospect of an impending UAW strike of General Motors to begin at midnight, Democratic politicians voiced support for workers.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading most national polls to be the Democratic nominee for president next year, said on Twitter on Sunday afternoon that he is "Proud to stand" with union members demanding "fair wages and benefits for their members."
"A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about dignity and respect," he tweeted.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by his campaign, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is also among the Democratic front-runners, said he is "proud to support the UAW workers who are standing up to the greed of General Motors."
GM, Sanders went on, "is not a poor company. It is a company that received a $50 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008. It is a company which, over the last 4 years, spent $25 billion buying back its own stock and paying out dividends. It is a company that made over $4 billion in profits last year, paid nothing in federal income taxes and provided a huge compensation package for its CEO.
"Today, our message to General Motors is a simple one: End the greed, sit down with the UAW and work out an agreement that treats your workers with the respect and the dignity they deserve," Sanders said.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, another Democratic presidential contender, posted a comment on Twitter that didn't mention either the UAW or GM by name but still voiced her support, saying, "Unions have organized, marched, negotiated, and gone on strike -- all to ensure dignity and rights for working people. You don't have to be a member of a union to benefit from the work of organized labor."
Support among union and other working-class voters was considered key to Trump's victory in the industrial Midwest, including Michigan, in 2016, and, in the past, he has sought to distance workers from their union, suggesting their dues are too high.
On Sunday, however, the president was at least initially quiet about the prospect of a strike, even though he was active on Twitter, talking about news columns that suggested he got the most gain out of last week's Democratic debate in Houston.
Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, Trump tweeted out a brief remark suggesting both sides get together but not outwardly backing workers or the company. He also cryptically said, "Here we go again," though the UAW hasn't struck GM since 2007.
"Get together and make a deal!" the president said.
Two weeks ago, Trump visited briefly with GM CEO Mary Barra at the White House but it wasn't known if they discussed the possibility of a strike at the time.
Most Michigan members of Congress were also at least initially slow to comment on the possibility of a strike, perhaps wanting to wait for it to go into effect at midnight unless a last-minute agreement was reached.
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, a former labor organizer, said in a statement Sunday he supported the UAW's decision to use its "most serious tool to achieve a better deal" with GM, but also hoped that the strike "will be brief and a resolution is reached quickly."
"In its next contract with the UAW, GM must make as many jobs as possible permanent and full-time, ensure fair wages and good benefits for all employees, and assemble in the U.S. vehicles the company expects to sell in the U.S.," Levin said.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, said she was also monitoring the strike preparations with workers at plants in Lansing and Lake Orion who would be affected.
"I remain hopeful that UAW and GM can come to a swift and fair resolution that supports hard working auto workers and their families, and ensures we keep making the best cars in the world here in America," she said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, also posted a comment on Twitter, saying he is "Standing in solidarity with auto workers nationwide who are fighting for fair wages and decent benefits." Representing a district long identified with the automaker, he said he hopes the two parties can "agree on a contract that prioritizes American manufacturing and allows workers to continue building world-class cars."
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., put out a statement Sunday night saying he supports workers fighting for better wages and benefits.
"When the auto industry was in crisis the UAW and its members stepped up to the plate in the spirit of shared sacrifice and they and their families in Michigan and across the country deserve to benefit during periods of profitability," Peters said.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, also D-Mich., put out a statement to "urge both sides to come to an agreement that will lead to well-deserved increases in wages and health care, and more jobs here in Michigan."
Contact Todd Spangler at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.
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