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Trump seeks UAW endorsement while criticizing EVs, Biden in Michigan

Former President Donald Trump criticizes electric vehicles to woo autoworkers

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Former President Donald Trump attempted to woo blue-collar autoworkers Wednesday night by criticizing electric vehicles and warning of what he claimed is a forthcoming demise of the U.S. auto industry, as he asked United Auto Workers members to encourage union leaders to endorse him.

“Tell your UAW leaders — no problems with them — but they have to endorse Trump,” he said Wednesday night during an auto worker-focused rally at a nonunion auto parts supplier in suburban Detroit.

Trump, the front-runner among Republicans in the 2024 presidential race, many times encouraged the UAW to endorse him during the roughly hourlong speech. He did so by mocking President Joe Biden and promising to save the U.S. automotive industry from what he described as being wiped out in the coming years due to current Democrat policies, including a push for EVs.

At one point, Trump said he doesn’t mind EVs, but he believes consumers should be able to choose between such vehicles as well as traditional gasoline and diesel models. He condemned Biden’s goal to have half of new vehicles sold by 2030 be EVs as well as the auto industry’s current dependency on China for batteries and other components.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an autoworker-focused campaign rally at auto supplier Drake Enterprises, on Sept. 27, 2023 in Clinton Township, Michigan.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

“If you want to buy an electric car, that’s absolutely fine. I’m all for it,” Trump said. “But we should not be forcing consumers to buy electric vehicles they don’t want to buy.”

Trump’s visit occurred as the UAW continued targeted strikes against General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis. The sides failed to reach tentative agreements by an 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14 expiration of contracts for 146,000 UAW members with the Detroit automakers.

Currently, about 18,300 UAW members with the Detroit automakers are on strike, with the union warning of additional strikes without substantial progress in the talks by Friday.

Trump mentioned the striking union workers and negotiations several times during his speech, largely focused on how the negotiations won’t matter if the auto industry gets wiped out.

“It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what you get because in two years you’re all going to be out of business,” Trump said.

A UAW spokesman declined to comment on Trump’s remarks after the event, which the former president attended instead of the second GOP debate.

President Biden visits UAW picket line as strike against top U.S. car companies persists

UAW President Shawn Fain heavily criticized Trump and his visit to Michigan after appearing with Biden on a UAW picket line Tuesday afternoon in suburban Detroit.

The outspoken union leader previously denounced Trump’s track record with automotive unions and criticized the fact that Trump’s Wednesday visit would be at a nonunion company called Drake Enterprises.

“I find a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a nonunion business,” Fain said in an interview Tuesday night on CNN. “All you have to do is look at his track record — his track record speaks for itself.”

While the UAW has historically supported Democrats, including Biden in 2020, Fain is withholding the union’s reendorsement of the president, who has touted himself as the “most pro-union president in American history,” over concerns about EVs.

Fain, on the picket line with Biden at the Willow Run Redistribution Center, called the president joining the picket line a “historic moment.” But he did not officially endorse the commander in chief for next year’s presidential election.

Fain has repeatedly said he believes another Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” but the former president has won the support of many rank-and-file union members.

Brian Pannebecker, a retiree who worked more than 30 years at Chrysler and Ford, is an avid Trump supporter. He said the UAW and autoworkers should support Trump because of his past trade policies and stance on EVs.

“Donald Trump would not be pushing this EV kind of mandate on the companies or on the consumers,” he said at the Wednesday rally.

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