(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump will visit Detroit on the day of the second Republican primary debate in a bid to court members of the United Auto Workers union who are striking against Detroit’s legacy big three automakers, according to people familiar with his plans.
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Trump will deliver a prime-time address before an audience of current and former union workers, according to the people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans. Trump has also weighed appearing at a picket line with striking auto workers, but the logistics of such a visit may be difficult to organize, according to the people.
The second GOP debate is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Trump skipped the first debate in August and has previously said he would not attend the second forum. Trump’s plans to visit Detroit were first reported by the New York Times on Monday.
The UAW launched an unprecedented strike on Friday against General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV, the maker of the Jeep and Chrysler brands, after the two sides failed to agree on a new contract by a deadline.
An extended work stoppage threatens to have devastating ripple effects — upending supply chains, raising prices on automobiles and potentially tipping some battleground states with plants into recession.
At the center of the dispute over wages and job security are President Joe Biden’s efforts to push the country toward electric vehicles. The UAW fears that transition will result in fewer union jobs for workers and less pay.
Earlier: Biden Has Few Options to Avert Strike Against Big 3 Carmakers
Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has sought to appeal to rank-and-file auto workers and drive a wedge between them and their union leaders. The UAW endorsed Biden in 2020 but has not yet endorsed his reelection bid.
Union President Shawn Fain said Democrats need to do more to show their support for higher benefits and wages for auto workers and avoid taking the union’s support for granted. Fain, though, has ruled out endorsing Trump, despite the former president’s calls for their support.
Trump’s visit will take him to a battleground state, Michigan, which he lost to Biden in 2020. Biden has cast himself as the most pro-union president in US history but his clean energy push has put him at odds with organized labor. Republicans, including Trump, have lambasted Biden for his EV policies, saying the push will only cost US auto workers jobs and raise prices for consumers.
“Donald 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. Instead of standing with workers, Trump cut taxes for the super-wealthy while auto companies shuttered their doors and shipped American jobs overseas,” said Ammar Moussa, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign. “No self-serving photo op can erase Trump’s four years of abandoning union workers and standing with his ultra-rich friends.”
The UAW on Monday said it was still waiting for counter-proposals from automakers. A union representative said no new offers had come from GM, Ford or Stellantis since the union made its proposals on Sept. 14, right before it began its strike.
Earlier: UAW Says It’s Waiting for Counteroffers From Detroit Three (1)
Trump has so far declined to take the stage against his lower polling Republican rivals, saying the debates will only give his challengers more attention. The president has increasingly pivoted his attacks toward Biden, seeking to cast himself as the Republican party’s de facto nominee four months before Iowa voters caucus.
(Updates to add Biden campaign comments in 10th paragraph)
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