The UAW is putting itself back in the political crosshairs after members of the union saw General Motors and Fiat-Chrysler’s move to bus workers to President Trump’s recent speech in Michigan, while covering their pay, as politically motivated.
The Detroit Free Press reports workers were given the opportunity to attend the speech, with each major auto manufacturer providing transportation, lunch and no absence tally for a worker. Ford, however, did not cover the day’s wages.
“I have been at Chrysler for 23 years, and I have never seen this kind of approach. We have never seen them go out of their way to pay people to go to a rally,” said Gabe Solano, president of UAW Local 372. “I find it amusing that Trump’s camp always likes to say Democrats are paying people to attend rallies. It’s kind of ironic now that companies are paying people to attend Trump rallies.”
UAW President, Dennis Williams, has supported President Trump’s agenda to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which many UAW members say hurt the auto industry, but Williams has been a critic of much of Trump’s overall agenda including health care, immigration and the environment.
Automakers defended the decision to bus employees in, with FCA stating, “This is is an unprecedented event where the whole industry is being acknowledged, and the White House wanted to make sure it had a cross-section of employees — both salaried and hourly — to celebrate the auto industry. Because of the location of the venue, we had to provide transportation.”
However, some employees were thrilled with the opportunity to see the president speak and say upper UAW management no longer represents members.
“The UAW, for too long, has acted like it represents the feelings of all of the autoworkers … and now there is a gap opening up between the union leadership and the union membership, and this is an example of that,” Brian Pannebecker said, a Ford employee and a longtime political activist who also is a spokesman for Michigan Freedom to Work, a grassroots organization that helped fight for right-to-work legislation in Michigan.
Despite this potential clash of ideals inside the UAW, 59 percent of members voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while 33 percent voted for President Donald Trump. Eight percent did not cast a ballot last November.