Government & Politics

‘I promise you I’m with you’ Former VP Joe Biden speaks to striking workers in KCK

Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden told a group of striking auto workers in Kansas City, Kansas, Sunday it was “simply not fair,” that CEOs have benefited from the bailout of GM while workers were left behind.

Biden made the remarks while visiting members of UAW Local 31 at the General Motors Fairfax plant who are striking after contract negotiations between United Auto Workers and the company reached a standstill last week.

The strike started last week when 150 people walked out of the Fairfax assembly plant at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

The union workers are asking for better wages, profit sharing, job security and changes to the company’s treatment of temporary workers.

“I promise you I’m with you,” Biden told the workers.

GM was one of three car companies to benefit from a government bailout during the economic recession that began in 2008.

When the company started to become profitable again, Biden said, it gave its CEOs raises.

“This is simply not fair,” he said.

According to Biden, who’s vying for the Democratic nomination for president, GM has also benefited from “this stupid tax cut the president put forward.” In 2017, President Donald Trump overhauled the tax system for both individuals and corporations.

Clarence Brown, president of UAW Local 31, said the strike is about more than the union.

“This is about the community we live and work in,” he said. “These things are about the working families of this country.”

The Fairfax plant, which builds the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac XT4, employs 2,421 people.

Brown noted that GM cut health insurance benefits of striking workers last week and said there hasn’t been an update on how the negotiations are going.

“Until then we’re going to stay in solidarity out here,” Brown said, adding that Biden’s support was tremendous.

Biden’s appearance drew about 300 people. After his speech, he talked with dozens of strikers and posed for selfies.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, visited the plant Thursday to show her support.

The nationwide strike, the first of its kind since 2007, has stopped factory lines at 53 GM facilities.

Biden is one of many Democratic presidential candidates arriving at picket lines.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar went to Detroit Thursday and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan met Monday with strikers in Lordstown, Ohio, where GM halted production earlier this year, laying off 1,400 employees.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders plan to visit strikers later in the week.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver has endorsed Biden in the Democratic primary for president.

Biden was the third presidential candidate to visit the Kansas City area recently. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke visited over the summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Katie Moore covers crime and justice issues for The Star. She is a University of Kansas graduate and was previously a reporter in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas.