White House team won't travel to Detroit to join UAW strike talks

WASHINGTON — The White House team that President Joe Biden said Friday he was “dispatching” to Detroit to help resolve the auto workers' strike will no longer travel there this week, a White House official told NBC News.

The official said the United Auto Workers union and the White House mutually agreed it would be better to speak virtually by Zoom. The official said it’s possible senior adviser Gene Sperling and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su could still go to Michigan next week, but nothing is firm at this time.

“We’ll continue to assess travel timing based on the active state of negotiations. The president stands with UAW workers, and believes that record corporate profits must mean record contracts for the UAW,” the White House official said.

United Auto Workers members picket outside the Jeep Plant in Toledo, Ohio
United Auto Workers members picket outside the Jeep Plant in Toledo, Ohio, on Sept. 18, 2023. Sarah Rice / Getty Images

Sperling has been the point person on key issues connected to the union and the "Big Three" auto companies, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler maker Stellantis, and has been coordinating with Su. 

A White House official told NBC News over the weekend that the pair had been working the phones “with the intention of being there early in the week,” but as of Tuesday afternoon, they were not in Detroit and there was no indication of when they would go. 

The White House has said that Sperling and Su were not going to “intervene” with or “mediate” the talks and instead would act in a supportive role to “help support the negotiations in any way the parties feel is constructive.”

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The UAW walkout began Friday. Biden said then that he hoped the two sides would be able to resolve their differences quickly and come to a "win-win" agreement.

“Let’s be clear, no one wants a strike,” Biden said in remarks after the talks collapsed, before saying he sympathized with workers who've seen their companies rake in "record profits" that "have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers."

Biden, who's running for re-election in 2024, also said "I respect workers’ right to use their options under the collective bargaining system.”

Former President Donald Trump, who's the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has blamed Biden and UAW leaders for the strike.

“The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” he said in an interview that aired on NBC's "Meet the Press" over the weekend.

Trump is also planning to deliver a prime-time speech to union workers in Detroit during next week’s Republican primary debate, three sources familiar with the planning confirmed Monday. The event is intended as counter-programming to the debate, which Trump is not attending.

A spokesperson for the Biden-Harris campaign responded Monday that Trump “is going to Michigan next week to lie to Michigan workers and pretend he didn’t spend his entire failed presidency selling them out at every turn.”


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