The UAW Has Now Endorsed a Cease-Fire in Gaza and President Biden for 2024

Last month, the United Auto Workers backed an end to the violence in Gaza. Today, the union threw its support behind Biden—who has been a strong backer of Israel’s war—in his likely rematch with Republican Donald Trump.

Ivonne Ortiz

U.S. President Joe Biden and Shawn Fain, President of the United Auto Workers, wave during the UAW conference in Washington, DC, on January 24, 2024. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the United Auto Workers officially endorsed President Joe Biden at the UAW National CAP Conference in Washington, D.C with President Shawn Fain declaring that elections are about power.”

Elections,” Fain said, aren’t about just picking your best friend for the job, or the candidate who makes you feel good.”

That statement from Fain, who recently spoke proudly about the UAW’s support for a cease-fire in Israel and Palestine, may have been directed at UAW members who have been deeply upset by Biden’s unflinching support for the Israeli government since Hamas’ October 7 attacks, and the fact that his administration has helped funnel weapons and money to the Israeli war machine as more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed.

A group of those UAW members protested the union’s decision on Wednesday, demanding that the UAW withhold the endorsement until Biden reversed course on Gaza and called for an end to the violence.

Other national unions including the AFL-CIO announced endorsements of the incumbent as early as last summer. It was about this time that Fain met with Biden to ask for his support for auto workers during their contract negotiations and address the union’s concerns regarding the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

During the UAW’s historic Stand-Up Strike against the Big Three automakers that followed in the fall, Biden said that record profits [should] mean record contracts” and showed up to the union’s picket line outside a General Motors plant in Belleville, Michigan. In November, the UAW secured historic contracts with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis that resulted in increased wages, an end to the despised system of tiers, and ensured production facilities would have capacity to manufacture EVs.

In announcing the endorsement on Wednesday, Fain emphasized the importance of Biden’s support for labor, stressing that Biden’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board had been crucial to the labor movement. Meanwhile, Fain mocked Trump as a scab” who gained a reputation for attacking unions.” 

Trump went to a nonunion plant, invited by the boss, and trashed our union,” Fain said. And, here is what Joe Biden did during our Stand-Up Strike: He heard the call. He stood up and showed up.”

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The UAW’s endorsement of Biden comes almost two months after it became the largest union in the United States to back a cease-fire (on Monday, Service Employees International Union, the second largest U.S. union, took the mantle as the largest in the country to demand an immediate and lasting peace). Fain also announced on Monday that when and where there’s a war, whether it’s in Vietnam or in Gaza, we call for peace.” Hours before the endorsement announcement, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) had also taken the conference stage, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd before calling for solidarity with Palestine. Tlaib has been a vocal supporter of a cease-fire in Gaza.

We’ve got to tell Congress, we’ve got to tell the president, we’ve got to tell everybody: We’ve got to invest in life, not death,” Tlaib told the audience. Referencing her recent censure by her fellow members of Congress over her criticisms of Israel’s assault on Gaza, Tlaib added: They can try to censure me, but they can’t censure the world. And they sure as hell can’t censure the UAW.” 

Earlier in the week, the UAW rank-and-file group Labor for Palestine, demanded their union withhold their endorsement of Biden until he called for a permanent cease-fire, [cut] all military aid to Israel, and [supported] Palestinian liberation.” Several protesters, including UAW members, booed Biden and called for a cease-fire as he delivered his speech after Fain’s announcement, but were drowned out by cheers for the union as they were removed from the hall. Outside the conference, other members of the UAW also marched in protest of the war in Gaza.

Despite his on-the-record support for a two-state solution, Biden appears far from supporting a permanent cease-fire and the U.S. government continues to provide military aid to Israel. 

During his speech to union members, Biden pledged that the days of working people being dealt out of the deal are over in this country. Working people are going to get their fair share. You’ve earned it. You fought for it. And you deserve it.” 

Biden has declared himself the most pro-union president in American history,” and while he has taken significant steps to support the labor movement, union membership in the U.S. remains historically low and labor law remains stacked against workers seeking to organize. In the face of this dynamic, some labor advocates have called on Biden to publicly commit to taking action to protect and expand unionization if he wins the presidency, including making a renewed push to pass the omnibus PRO Act and funding labor organizing at the federal level. 

The UAW, for its part, appears to be betting that Biden will deliver for workers if he’s re-elected this fall. In a CNN interview later on Wednesday, Fain told anchor Jake Tapper: There’s two choices in this election and it’s very clear which one is going to support working-class people and which one doesn’t.”

Donald Trump has a long history: In 2008 [during] the recession, he blamed workers for what was wrong with those companies,” Fain said, while President Biden bet on the workers.” 

Ivonne Ortiz is an environmental journalist based in Sacramento. She’s currently an intern at In These Times.

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