Former President Donald Trump will be skipping the second Republican presidential debate on Wednesday evening to instead speak to auto workers in Michigan amid the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Big Three auto companies.
In spite of the strike, however, Trump will not be delivering his speech at a union shop.
Trump will discuss the future of the auto industry at Drake Enterprises, an auto parts supplier in Clinton Township, Michigan, a suburb to the north of Detroit. Although current and former UAW members will be in the audience, the company hosting Trump’s speech is non-union, which UAW leaders were quick to condemn.
Trump’s planned speech — in which he will likely attack President Joe Biden’s push for more electric vehicles in the U.S. — is being viewed as a means to create division between working class voters in the 2024 presidential contest, which will likely be between Trump and Biden. Although union households have historically backed Democratic candidates for president, Trump fared better with the demographic than most Republicans in the 2016 presidential race. By cutting into then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s share of union voters that year, Trump was able to win Michigan by a slim margin and ultimately secure the White House.
As Trump attempts to court union voters in the lead-up to the 2024 race, however, he faces an additional obstacle: his anti-worker policies during his four years in office, UAW president Shawn Fain said.
On CNN Tuesday night, Fain called Trump’s planned speech “pathetic irony,” adding that it was “nothing more than a PR stunt” designed to “distract and gaslight” workers.
“All you have to do is look at his track record,” Fain said, pointing to a 60-day strike waged by UAW workers at General Motors in 2019.
For two months, they were on the picket lines. I didn’t see [Trump] hold a rally, I didn’t see him stand on the picket lines. And I sure as hell didn’t see him comment on it. He was missing in action.
In 2016, Trump promised auto workers at campaign stops in Michigan that they wouldn’t lose jobs under his administration’s watch. Less than one year into his term, however, auto companies announced layoffs and plant closures in the state and throughout the country.
Biden’s campaign has responded to Trump’s planned speech by noting that, as president, Trump took far more actions to benefit wealthy Americans than he did the average worker. The campaign launched its first attack ad against the likely GOP nominee on Wednesday, targeting Michigan voters.
“He says he stands with auto workers. But as president, Donald Trump passed tax breaks for his rich friends while automakers shuttered their plants,” the ad says.
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