Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives to the U.S. Capitol Building on June 01, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
Sen. Bernie Sanders will address striking autoworkers in Detroit on Friday, after calling on working people across the U.S. to stand in solidarity with the walkout.
Sanders will join United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain at the rally scheduled for 5 p.m. ET. His remarks will be live-streamed on his social media channels.
The independent senator from Vermont has promoted the strikes as a pivotal moment in a broader campaign to raise living standards for working people across the U.S.
“Their fight against corporate greed is our fight,” Sanders said in a video statement on Tuesday.
“Their victory will resonate all across the economy, impacting millions of workers from coast to coast and help to create a more just and equitable economy,” Sanders said.
Nearly 13,000 UAW members went on strike Friday after the union and the big three automobile manufacturers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — failed to reach an agreement Thursday night.
Workers are targeting three key plants in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. The strikes are the first time in the labor movement’s history that GM, Ford and Stellantis have been targeted at the same time.
Fain said Friday striking workers are “fighting for the justice of the working class.” He accused the automakers of “price-gouging” consumers, “ripping off” the taxpayer and “shortchanging” workers.
President Joe Biden, who has sought to closely ally himself with the labor movement, was more measured in remarks delivered Friday but he called on the automakers to ensure “record corporate profits mean record contracts” for their workers.
Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, made income inequality the central focus of his two unsuccessful campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, drawing large crowds at rallies with his uncompromising attacks against corporate America.
Sanders took the helm of the powerful Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in February. In one of his first acts as chair, he threatened to subpoena Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz over allegations of union busting.
The senator has accused Ford, GM and Stellantis of hiking the compensation of their CEOs while failing to provide commensurate wage increases to their workers.
Sanders said Tuesday that UAW workers are leading the fight against “a corporate culture of arrogance, cruelty and selfishness, which is causing massive and unnecessary pain for the majority of working families throughout our country.”
“There was once a time when a union job in the automobile industry was the gold standard for the working class of this country. Those days are sadly long gone,” Sanders said.
The UAW is demanding a 40% hourly wage increase, a 32-hour workweek, the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, a return to traditional pensions, and the elimination of compensation tiers, among other demands.
Ford said the union’s demands would more than double the automaker’s labor costs and place the company at a competitive disadvantage compared to non-unionized car companies such as Tesla and foreign manufacturers like Toyota.
GM CEO Mary Barra said she was “extremely frustrated and disappointed” with the strikes.