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President Joe Biden AND Sen. Josh Hawley join striking UAW picket lines?

By Ray McCarty

September 26, 2023 - It is an historic day. Strange, but historic nonetheless.

President Joe Biden made history today by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to join striking workers on a picket line in Michigan. While historic, this is in keeping with most people's expectations as Biden, a Democrat, seeks union support for his upcoming presidential campaign.

The stranger thing? Republican U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) joined striking UAW workers in a picket line in Wentzville, MO, yesterday. Hawley issued a press release entitled, "Hawley visits UAW Picket Line to Support Workers." The press release contained a reprint of his tweet (or "X", or whatever it is called today) from yesterday which read, "Privilege to visit the picket line in Wentzville today - these workers deserve better pay, better benefits, and a GUARANTEE their jobs will stay in America."

Perhaps folks should not be surprised by Hawley's actions since he also sided with union rail workers in their negotiations last winter. On December 1, 2022, Hawley issued a statement saying, "Today the Senate had the chance to stand up for railroad workers who frequently risk their lives and health on the job, just trying to support their families. Instead, the Senate sided with Joe Biden. Workers were asking for a handful of sick days per year. Biden and the Senate said no....No, this was the White House and management and union bosses teaming up to use federal law to force workers to accept contracts they rejected in negotiations."

Why, then, are we confused? It could be because Hawley issued a tweet September 16, 2015, saying: "Right to work override fails in Mo House. Time for an end to union-backed candidates in GOP." The right to work law, supported by AIM, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Greitens, would have allowed union workers the right to choose whether or not to support a union, effectively ending union only workplaces. Voters overturned that law by a 2-1 margin. After that vote, when asked directly whether he supported right to work during debates with then-Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018, he never directly answered the question except to note that the people of Missouri had spoken on the issue.

Speaking through a bullhorn on the picket line, President Biden said, "Let's keep going. You deserve what you've earned, and you deserve a hell of a lot more than you're getting paid now."

UAW workers originally wanted a 40% pay increase and a 32-hour workweek. A USA Today article quoted a blog post on UAW contracts by Kristin Dziczek, a policy advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, stating the average hourly labor costs for the Detroit Big Three automaker workers were an estimated $66 per hour, more than $132,000 per year. A 40% increase would mean that pay would jump to $92 per hour or more than $184,000 per year.

A report by the Anderson Economic Group estimated a full-fledged strike for 10 days against the Big Three would cause economic losses exceeding $5 billion, including wage loss of $859 million, and could trigger recessions in states with higher percentages of union autoworkers.

One thing to be learned from the last 48 hours: if you want to know where a politician stands on something, you better watch their recent actions, not just read their tweets...or X's...or whatever they are called today.

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