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Not all of Donald Trump’s big news this week was related to the indictments.
On Thursday, ex-president distributed A video and statement about the auto industry — specifically, about how he intends to save it from what he says is President Joe Biden’s neglect. The speech covered a lot, including how Biden’s failure, according to Trump, to control inflation and get tough with trading partners has put US automakers at a disadvantage.
But the main thrust of the letter was to attack Biden’s support for electric cars.
Biden and his Democratic allies have been touting that support, particularly through subsidies that were part of last year’s inflation-lowering law, as one of their biggest accomplishments — not just as a way to combat climate change, but as a way to revive America’s manufacturing base and the jobs that come with it.
The early signs are promising. There was a big jump in industrial investment and announcements of new factories, incl Four new battery factories in Michigan alone. Each of these facilities has the potential to create thousands of jobs directly, and many more indirectly, whether it be from nearby suppliers or restaurants. (Lines workers have to eat, after all.)
Companies across the country are “expanding factories, building new ones, and creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, most of which do not require a four-year degree,” the president said in a recent speech promoting Bedanomics.
But the transition to electric vehicles also depends on Americans buying cars. market volatileAs in new markets, after months of rising sales, there are now signs of a slowdown. Trump’s statement on Thursday took advantage of one such report to say that promoting electric cars, which also include higher gas mileage standards, is pushing companies to produce cars that consumers don’t really want and can’t afford, even with subsidies.
“Joe Biden is waging war on the American auto industry with a series of crippling mandates designed to force Americans to buy expensive electric cars, even as thousands of electric cars are piling up in parking lots, all unsold,” Trump said. “This ridiculous Green New Deal crusade has caused car prices to skyrocket while paving the way for the destruction of American auto production.”
Tump predicted this argument during a A speech to his supporters in Michigan Last month, when he predicted that pressure on electric vehicles would “destroy” an auto industry so closely tied to the country’s history and culture — and he noted that some of the newly planned factories are partnerships with companies linked to China. Trump said then: “The pressure is on all electric cars, it’s killing the United States, it’s killing Michigan, and that’s a complete vote for China.”
It’s not hard to see why this argument would play so well in MAGA circles, as fuel-efficient EVs have become so popular. symbol of cultural liberalism The threat posed by China is particularly looming. It’s also fair to suspect that the argument will resonate with other voters, who might care more about climate change or might appreciate the opportunity to spend less money on gas.
But there was one final, politically crucial element to Trump’s attack: the assertion that moving to electric vehicle production would mean fewer jobs overall or lower wages for auto workers.
This argument has the potential to resonate with a broader group of voters, especially if they hear a version of it from someone else—someone they trust. And that’s exactly what happened this week, when union auto workers president Sean Fine visited Washington.
UAW entered the conversation
Fain had only been in the job for a few months, after a close election in which members gained direct leadership selection for the first time. Fain’s central promise was to adopt a more aggressive stance toward automakers and, if necessary, to exercise more independence from traditional allies in the Democratic Party.
The UAW is now heading into negotiations for new contracts with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (the European group that owns Chrysler), and the future of EV production is perhaps the single biggest element of contention. Of particular concern to the union are those new battery factories that automakers plan to work jointly with overseas companies that Americans still lack.
The Big Three said they did not want union contracts at those factories to be part of the same “master agreements” that cover workers at existing factories run by the companies alone. The UAW leadership sees this insistence as an attempt to break out of existing contract terms and weaken union bargaining power, and say they need more support from the White House.
The union said it is withholding endorsements for Biden at this time, and Fane was particularly angry Last month, after the Biden administration signed a $9.2 billion loan for a partnership plant with Ford, without first obtaining agreements on compensation and working conditions.
“We’ve been very clear that shifting to electric motor jobs, producing batteries, and manufacturing other electric vehicles can’t become a race to the bottom,” Fine said. “Not only is the federal government not using its power to turn the tide – it is actively funding the race to the bottom with billions in public money.”
White House officials responded by emphasizing their support for the union and its goals, and pointing to what is arguably the most pro-labor record of any president in half a century. This includes clear public statements defending the right to regulate, as well as a push to tie support for green energy to high labor standards.
White House officials have also noted that the only reason the requirements to support electric vehicles are not stronger is because there are not enough votes in Congress to support them. Still, they say, Biden is using what leverage he has to push for what he and the unions have been calling a “fair transition” to electric vehicles, where the new jobs treat workers as the existing ones do.
“Laws don’t contain every single legal tool that we would have liked,” Celeste Drake, deputy director of the National Economic Council responsible for labor issues, told me. “But… (Biden) is there using the bully pulpit and talking about how American companies would be better off if they used labor unions. He’s there explaining his expectations about creating good jobs, including the free and fair choice to union.”
“He’s really using every tool out there…to put his thumb on the scales for a fair transition for workers,” Drake said.
One reason to take those promises seriously: Biden promised to apply similar pressure on railroad companies that were refusing to give workers sick leave last year. The railroad carriers eventually gave in and agreed to some sick days, drawing praise from railroad unions that had previously been critical of Biden.
Another reason to take those promises seriously: Fine’s trip to Washington included a visit to the White House and a meeting with Biden himself.
Business has no love for Trump
Despite the public jitters, Fine and other AWC leaders have made it clear that they will not get involved in the Republican war on EVs — nor are they about to support Trump, for that matter. Fine has previously said in an open letter that he believes “another Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster,” and he has conveyed that privately as well, according to several sources.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, a veteran Democratic congresswoman from Michigan who knows the state and its labor politics like no one else, says she believes such suspicions about Trump are widespread, because workers remember how little he’s done for them as president.
““Most workers wouldn’t believe he was going to fight for them every day, try to get higher wages or fight for their benefits or the things they would look for in contracts,” Dingell told me. “What the workers are looking for is someone who really understands them, which Joe Biden does, who will fight for them as individuals and as individuals, as Joe Biden would.”
But Dingle added that “the challenge for management in the next few months is to make sure that workers see this – and that they address some of the concerns that workers have”.
It seems almost certain that the Federation of the Arab World will eventually endorse Biden. But there remains the possibility of a tepid endorsement, which could mean fewer soldiers on the ground supporting the Biden campaign — and less public endorsement of what Biden says about electric cars, the economy and jobs.
The final effect may be small. But even minor fluctuations in public sentiment can make a big difference in states like Michigan, as Trump has proven once before.