DETROIT — Former President Donald Trump said he was traveling to Detroit to rally with striking autoworkers, but the location he settled on for his Wednesday event is a nonunion parts supplier whose workers aren’t at all involved with the strike.
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain pointed that out after President Joe Biden’s stop at a picket line in Belleville, Michigan, on Tuesday.
“I find it odd he’s going to go to a nonunion business to talk to union workers,” Fain told reporters after Biden’s stop. “I don’t think he gets it, but that’s up to people to decide.”
Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign is set to hold its event at Drake Enterprises in Macomb County, a quintessential swing county in the Detroit suburbs that backed Biden in 2020 after Trump won it in 2016. A national UAW spokesperson confirmed that the union does not represent workers at Drake, but the factory could be home to other unions. Drake did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s campaign says he’s planning a prime-time speech to an audience of 500 union members, including some autoworkers. The former president has touted his renegotiation of trade relations between the United States, Mexico and Canada as benefiting rank-and-file workers, but union leaders see him as anything but an ally. Trump, and Republicans in general, were mostly silent during the UAW’s 2019 strike against General Motors, and Trump did not visit the picket line. Fain is sharply critical of Trump, calling him an out-of-touch member of the millionaire and billionaire class that workers are fighting against.
“The proof’s in the body of work,” Fain said. “I go back to the economic recession, where he was quoted blaming the union, blaming the UAW for what was wrong with the auto companies. I go back to 2015, when he was running the first time and he was talking about doing a rotation, getting rid of our jobs, moving them somewhere else, where they pay less money.”
The UAW hasn’t moved yet to endorse Biden in the 2024 presidential race — but Fain has made clear that an endorsement for Trump isn’t happening.
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the former president singled out the union’s leadership in a Saturday post on Truth Social. “If the UAW ‘leadership’ doesn’t ENDORSE me, and if I don’t win the Election, the Autoworkers are ‘toast,’ with our great truckers to follow,” he wrote.
Drake lists Ford, General Motors and other major automakers as clients, which all do business with a vast network of unionized and nonunionized suppliers. Drake’s website says it specializes in making parts for heavy-duty trucks: “Our customers include many major OEM companies in the heavy truck, agriculture and automotive markets.” The company says it has 125 employees.
Drake CEO Nathan Stemple appeared on Fox News on Tuesday to discuss Trump’s upcoming visit. He said the strike has impacted demand for the parts his company manufactures. Stemple also made a dig at Biden when asked about his stop at the picket line.
“I’m not much of a politician. I have three kids and run a manufacturing company, so I don’t have time to get into politics,” he said. “I did look at some past things and President Biden in 2020 said that he was gonna bring 18.6 million jobs for the automotive industry. And I don’t know if that has happened yet, or if he miscalculated his numbers. We all know that’s happened before.” (Biden didn’t actually say he would create 18.6 million automotive jobs.)
Trump’s visit has been billed as an effort to court striking autoworkers who represent part of the working-class coalition that powered his rise in 2016. Meanwhile, Biden’s Tuesday appearance at a General Motors parts supplier in Belleville made him the first president to ever meet with striking workers at a picket line.
Trump is expected to make his remarks at 8 p.m. Wednesday as counterprogramming to the second Republican presidential debate.