Biden Speaks With UAW President, Auto Executives Ahead of Strike Deadline

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden spoke with United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain and executives from Detroit’s three legacy automakers as they approach a Thursday night deadline for a deal that would prevent a strike, the White House said.

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The White House said Biden discussed with union and company leaders “the status of ongoing negotiations” but didn’t provide specifics on the conversations.

Fain is preparing to hit the automakers —- General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV — with targeted walkouts at strategic locations in several states if they don’t reach an agreement by 11:59 p.m. Thursday in Detroit.

The contentious labor negotiations between the union and automakers have placed Biden in a difficult situation politically.

He has regularly called himself the most pro-union president in American history and highlights his efforts to strengthen organized labor.

Earlier: Biden Has Few Options to Avert Strike Against Big 3 Carmakers

Yet his push to transition the country to electric vehicles is at the center of the negotiations, with unions worried that it could lead to job cuts and lower pay, and favor non-union car companies such as Tesla Inc.

Biden has avoided work stoppages in other industries, including securing a deal for freight-rail workers and seeing an agreement between dockworkers and terminal operators for West Coast ports. The auto industry negotiations pose a new test of his pro-union credentials and threaten to deliver a blow to supply chains and the economy if the two sides fail to reach an agreement by the deadline.

The administration is preparing for the potential fallout from a strike, which could lead to higher car prices and inflict financial damage on industry suppliers.

A 10-day strike would likely cost $5.6 billion in lost output and push swing-state Michigan into recession, according to the Anderson Economic Group.

Read more: UAW Prepares Targeted Strike to Maximize Automakers’ Pain

As the Thursday night deadline approached, automakers began sharing more details on their negotiations.

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, in a letter to employees, detailed a proposed 20% pay raise over the contract period. While the terms are up from a previous offer of 18%, they are still short of the 36% sought by the union.

(Updates with additional details, from second paragraph)

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