UAW President Shawn Fain broke with a long-standing tradition of having a “handshake ceremony” with auto executives from the three major automakers to kick off contract negotiations and instead spoke to Stellantis workers and conducted “Member Handshake” Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan on July 12, 2023. The UAW will begin auto contract negotiations with Stellantis today, July 14 and July 18 with Ford and General Motors. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images News | Getty Images

United Auto Workers President Sean Fein said Monday that the White House will play no role in brokering a deal to end the auto workers’ strike as the strike enters its fourth day with no resolution in sight.

Fein was asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” if the White House could help unions and General Motors, Ford and star Come to an agreement.

“This fight has nothing to do with the president,” Fein said. “This is not about the former president or anyone else who came before. This fight is about workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they are tired of going backwards.”

Fein’s comments came after President Joe Biden said on Friday that he would send acting Labor Secretary Julie Sue and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to help mediate negotiations.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an interview with CNBC on Monday that the White House hopes to reach a “win-win” deal. “Both sides need to narrow their differences and work toward a deal that is good for workers and the industry as a whole,” Yellen said.

Janet Yellen on auto strike: We want to see a win-win deal for both sides

The strike has entered its fourth day, with no solution in sight. Nearly 13,000 UAW members are on strike at three major plants in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

Biden, who is running for re-election next year, has often touted his blue-collar roots and sought close ties with the labor movement, but a strike would test those credentials if the dispute cannot be resolved and triggers broader economic chaos. Former President Trump also sought support from United Auto Workers members while attacking union leaders as he sought re-election to the White House.

Biden largely sided with striking workers in a brief speech Friday, calling on automakers to share in the record profits they have experienced in recent years.

“I don’t think these record profits are being shared equitably with workers,” the president said.

Auto workers are demanding a 40% increase in hourly wages, a 32-hour work week, elimination of compensation levels, restoration of traditional pensions, restoration of cost-of-living adjustments and better vacation and family leave benefits.

How’s it going?

Fein said Monday that unions and automakers remain “very far apart” on several issues. In particular, he proposed pay scales, whereby workers for the same job were paid differently.

“We were very clear from the beginning that we wanted to end the hierarchy,” Fein told MSNBC. “There’s no reason why workers on a production line are doing the same job and being paid completely different wages.”

The UAW president said union members are prepared to escalate: “If the company doesn’t respond to members’ demands, then we have to do what we have to do.”

Automakers say union demands would weaken the companies and put them at a disadvantage compared to non-union automakers. Ford CEO Jim Farley told CNBC on Thursday that the automaker could go bankrupt under current UAW demands.

Ford CEO Jim Farley: Our company cannot be sustainable under UAW wage proposal

Ford on Friday temporarily laid off 600 non-strike workers at its Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant. General Motors said its assembly plant in Fairfax, Missouri, could close as soon as this week, affecting 2,000 workers.

Trump on Friday accused the UAW leadership of failing its members and claimed the Biden administration’s efforts to transition to electric vehicles would result in manufacturing jobs being moved to China.

“The auto workers are being betrayed by their leadership, and their leadership should support Trump,” Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, said in an interview with NBC News.

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