The following is a transcript of an interview with Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, that aired on “Face the Nation” on Jan. 28, 2024.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The United Auto Workers union represents about 400,000 members and last week officially endorsed President Biden’s reelection. For more we’re joined by its president, Shawn Fain. Welcome back to the program. What does the president need to do to win Michigan and not lose it like in 2016?
SHAWN FAIN: I think he has to keep doing what he’s been doing all along. I mean, look, we’ve said this from the outset of my presidency, that our endorsements are going to be earned. And we were clear about that. And when you look at these two candidates, it’s very clear the difference between both of them, one of them, President Biden, has always bet on the American worker and stood with the American worker, and he proved that during this presidency. He stood up with us, for the first time in U.S. history, we had a sitting president join striking workers on the picket line. You know, he- he saved the community. He worked with us, Belvidere, Illinois, that plant was closed. The community was written off for dead. President Biden came in to the table with us and worked with us to save that community and bring back not just Belvidere, but a second plant.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. Mr. Fain, I’m going to take a quick break because I want to talk to you more without interruption about what’s happening in your industry and what’s happening in the Midwest. We have more questions in a moment. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to “Face The Nation”. We return to our conversation with the president of the UAW, Shawn Fain. Sir, back in 2016, your former UAW president said an estimated 28% of members voted for Donald Trump. Do you expect a similar breakdown this election?
SHAWN FAIN: I think it’ll be less. I- I truly believe, we’re gonna do the same thing we did during our contract campaign, during our strike. You know, when we said endorsements will be earned, we meant it, and we’re going to deal with facts and truth. And I believe the overwhelming majority of UAW members and working class people, when the facts and the truth are put in front of them, will support Joe Biden for president. That’s why we made this decision. You know, look, when you look at these two candidates, you know, Joe Biden has a history of serving others, and serving the working class, and fighting for the working class, standing with the working class. Donald Trump has a history of serving himself and standing for the billionaire class. And that’s contrary to everything that working class people stand for. When you look at the- at the issues during our contract campaign, retirement security, better wages, health care, wanting our time back, wanting our lives back. That’s what matters. That’s why 75% of the American public stood with the UAW in our fight. And I believe that’s why a huge majority of our members and working class people will side with President Joe Biden in the upcoming election.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it- it used to be people thought of unions as very much tied to the Democratic Party, but we saw the Teamsters union president Sean O’Brien meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. He’s having a roundtable with him this week. I know President Biden’s also been invited as well. Do you anticipate that- that this other union will go a different direction and choose Mr. Trump?
SHAWN FAIN: I can’t fathom any union would support Donald Trump for president. Let’s be real and let’s look at facts. You know, Donald Trump says the best- look at- look at both of their careers. Donald Trump in his own words, when he had his reality TV show, “The Apprentice”, and when he was President, when he was in the White House, he had two favorite words: you’re fired. And, you know, he cycled through White House staff like- like toilet paper. And you know, when- when he was- in 2008, we were in a recession. Donald Trump blamed the workers for what was wrong with the Big Three. Joe Biden bet on the American worker. You go to 2015, Donald Trump talked about doing a rotation of our good paying jobs in the Midwest, somewhere where they pay less, driving a race to the bottom, wanting us to beg for our jobs back at lower pay. You know, he didn’t support- when Lordstown Assembly, when he was president, when Lordstown Assembly plant was slated for closure, he told people, don’t sell your houses. What did he do? Nothing. When GM went on strike in 2019, what did he do to support the striking workers? What did he say? Not a word. You know, Joe Biden, in- in 2008, he stood with the UAW, he stood with working class people in that recession. And- and they- and they gave us a pathway forward. You know, when he has been president, he stood with us for the first time in history, U.S. sitting president stood on the picket line with us, and he helped save a community, not sit back and do nothing while a community was destroyed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you, I know, have had a lot of frustrations with this transition to electric vehicles. Ford’s CEO has said they will require 40% less labor to produce cars than combustion vehicles. Is it difficult to convince your members that President Biden’s push to go electric won’t ultimately put them out of a job?
SHAWN FAIN: Look, our- our union has a history going back- I- I saw a statement 54 years ago in 1970, UAW President Leonard Woodcock was talking about, we needed to get away from the internal combustible engine because it’s poisoning the environment. Look, the UAW has always been at the forefront of environmental issues, and of working class issues. The biggest thing to us is, no matter which way we go on this, we’re gonna have security for our members and for the working class people. These have to- it has to be a just transition. That’s what we stood for. We were able to bargain. Thanks, again, to help from the White House. And from Secretary of Labor, Julie Su, we were able to bargain a contract where we put this work under our master agreements, under our standards, instead of driving a race to the bottom, which is where it was when we found it. So we’re not afraid of where we’re headed, no matter where this industry goes. Naturally, there’s work that has to be done with the infrastructure and things like that. But no matter where this heads, I know one presidential candidate will be behind us. And that’s Joe Biden. And I know another one that could care less about it. And that’s Donald Trump.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you got to get voters excited to actually show up and vote in the first place. I know Ford is headquartered out in Dearborn, Michigan. There are a lot of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans very upset about what’s happening in Gaza. You have called for a ceasefire, Joe Biden has not. Is this going to be difficult? Are they underestimating in Washington how painful this is for people in Michigan?
SHAWN FAIN: Well look, we’ve been very clear about our position. The UAW has a history of standing up for peace. We’ve called for a ceasefire, and we’re gonna continue to pressure and talk with the Biden administration about this issue. I believe they’ll- they’ll do the right thing. And I mean, let’s be real here. The other candidate, we know where he stands on this issue, and we know what he did with the embassy and stuff when he was president. So again, there’s two very stark contrasts between these two candidates. And we’re gonna continue to push the Biden administration to do the right thing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sir, thank you for your time today. We’ll be right back.