Trump to speak Wednesday at non-union Macomb Co. automotive parts manufacturer
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday is set to deliver remarks at Drake Enterprises, an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier in Clinton Township in Macomb County, according to an announcement from Trump’s campaign.
The former president’s visit to the facility will follow President Joe Biden’s Tuesday visit to join striking United Auto Workers (UAW) union members on the picket line.
“It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs,” Biden said in a social media post.
For the first time, the UAW on Sept. 15 declared a strike against all three U.S. automakers: Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The union on Friday expanded the strike from three auto plants to include 38 GM and Stellantis auto suppliers across the country, excluding Ford suppliers due to progress in talks.
The striking locations are spread across 21 states. Michigan has the most plants on strike in the country with 14.
Trump, who announced his trip first, blasted Biden’s decision to visit the state on a post to his social media platform, claiming the president had no intention of visiting UAW members until Trump made his announcement.
The UAW has not endorsed a candidate in the 2024 presidential election, but UAW President Shawn Fain invited Biden to the picket line and has criticized Trump on multiple occasions.
“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said ahead of Trump’s visit to Michigan.
“We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
Trump’s remarks are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday. His appearance coincides with the second Republican presidential debate, which Trump is not attending.
According to the Michigan AFL-CIO, a state federation of more than 40 labor organizations to which the UAW belongs, Drake Enterprises is a non-union manufacturer. The company did not return requests for comment.
Charles Ballard, a Michigan State University professor emeritus of economics, said Michigan is viewed by both parties as a swing state, voting for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.
While labor has long been a part of the Democratic Party’s voter base, the percentage of union workers in the American workforce has been steadily declining over the past 70 years, Ballard said. However, Republicans have previously courted votes from union workers, Ballard citing the “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s, working-class Democrats who voted to elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980.
Ballard also noted that a substantial amount of blue collar workers voted for Trump, as both parties are now working to appeal to the working class.
With the national presidential campaign already underway, it’s common for primary candidates to appeal to their party base during the primary and appeal to the greater populace in the general election. Trump likely doesn’t believe he needs to make this pivot, Ballard said.
“I think he believes that he’s gotten the Republican nomination,” Ballard said.
“I think he’s going to try to continue to appeal to white working class voters, which includes a lot of people who are union members,” he said.
Whether that appeal is anything in line with the UAW remains to be seen, Ballard said.
While he doesn’t believe it’s in the former president’s interest to make an explicitly anti-labor appeal, that would be a strong step, Ballard said, with many Republicans preferring to side-step the issue.
“If Trump were to be really explicit and say, ‘I’m in a non-union plant. Non-union workers are good guys, union workers are bad guys,’ that would galvanize things in a different way,” Ballard said.
While both Biden and Trump are likely coming to Michigan due to its status as a swing state and the heart of the UAW, the policy takeaways from each appearance could be quite different.
“If I were Joe Biden, I would say, ‘Why is Donald Trump coming here? Is he trying to pretend that he’s a friend of workers?’” Ballard said.
“Arguably, the most important piece of legislation signed into law by Donald Trump was a tax cut bill passed in December of 2017 that showered the vast majority of its benefits on very high income individuals, especially if they have large portfolios of corporate stock. So that doesn’t sound to me like a pro-worker stance,” Ballard said.
While Trump’s previous campaigns appealed to white working class voters by appealing to anxieties about the country’s changing demographics, Ballard said he didn’t see Trump appealing to workers on platforms like striking or implementing policies for wage gains.
However, this doesn’t prevent Trump from saying he’s pro-worker, Ballard said, noting that the tax legislation passed in December 2017 was presented by Republican leaders as a policy that would raise wages.
“There was no evidence that that was true, but, you know, I guess it’s a free country. If you want to say tax breaks for billionaires are good for workers, you’re free to say that,” Ballard said.