President Biden tried to burnish his blue-collar image Tuesday by standing on the picket line with striking United Auto Workers in Michigan — for all of 12 minutes — before hopping back on Air Force One for a swanky Silicon Valley fundraiser later in the evening.
“Wall Street didn’t build the country — the middle class built the country,” Biden, 80, yelled through a bullhorn to cheers from assembled UAW members outside Detroit.
“Unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. So let’s keep going. You deserve what you’ve earned and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”
Biden became the first sitting president to visit a picket line, but the UAW has so far withheld its endorsement of the president’s re-election campaign due to his administration’s push to transition car buyers to foreign-made electric vehicles.
Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s expected rival in the 2024 election, will deliver a speech on Wednesday night to union workers rather than attend the second Republican primary debate in Simi Valley, Calif.
The White House has declined to say whether the president supports the striking workers’ demands of a 40% pay raise and a 32-hour work week, though Biden answered “yes” when asked by a reporter Tuesday if he thought the salary hike was deserved.
Onboard Air Force One en route to Detroit, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also declined to say whether the work stoppage could hurt Biden’s chances of re-election if the ripple effects hit the US economy.
“I’m not going to speak to any political outcomes or how this plays into next year’s election,” Jean-Pierre said.
UAW President Shawn Fain — who spoke for seven minutes while Biden talked for just 87 seconds — thanked the president for coming and told the crowd: “Today belongs to the auto workers in the working class.”
“We do the heavy lifting. We do the real work,” Fain said. “We have the power. The world is of our making. The economy is of our making. This industry is of our making … when we withhold our labor, we can unmake it.”
The president soon sped back to the Detroit airport to fly roughly 2,400 miles to the Bay Area, where he will hold campaign fundraising events over the next two days.
Those include a sold-out Tuesday night event for his super PAC, the Biden Victory Fund, in Atherton, Calif., with donor get-in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, Puck News first reported.
The fundraiser will be hosted by Mark Heising, founder of the private equity firm Medley Partners, and his wife Liz Simons, the daughter of retired billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic megadonor James Simons.
The couple maxed out donations to Biden’s campaign and contributed $350,000 to the president’s super PAC earlier this year, federal election filings show.
In 2020, their foundation spent more than $5.5 million on Democratic candidates and causes, according to the political donation tracker OpenSecrets.org.
Former President Barack Obama also relied on the largesse of Heising and Simons for Democratic contributions and attended a $32,400-per-donor brunch at their home, Politico reported in 2013.
The philanthropist and sociologist Gretchen Sisson and her husband, Facebook cofounder Andrew McCollum, will host a second reception for the Biden Victory Fund on Wednesday night in San Francisco.
Biden last attended a Bay Area donor event in June, during a three-day trip to visit leaders in the tech industry to discuss artificial intelligence.
During the visit, he announced a $600 million investment in coastal and Great Lake communities for building projects “to protect against the impacts of climate change.”