WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers union announced on Tuesday that it is endorsing Democrat Joe Biden for president in the 2020 election.
U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has heavily courted auto workers in key battleground states like Michigan and Ohio, while Biden has touted his support for autoworkers when he served as vice president and his support of policies championed by unions.
“In these dangerous and difficult times, the country needs a president who will demonstrate clear, stable leadership, less partisan acrimony and more balance to the rights and protections of working Americans,” UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement.
On Monday, the UAW endorsed Biden’s plan to reopen the U.S. economy closed to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
The union, which represents about 400,000 U.S. workers, has been in talks with General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV about when to reopen U.S. auto plants.
“This issue demonstrates the need for presidential leadership to follow the guidance of science and give workers a seat in discussions over their safety and well-being. Now it is time for workers to take their place at the table,” Gamble said.
Trump last week named top executives at the Detroit Three automakers and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to advise the administration on reopening the economy, but did not include the UAW.
Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016 by just over 10,000 votes, or 0.23%. Democrats in the state hope Biden will attract more blue-collar support in 2020.
The endorsement comes at an opportune time for Biden, who has struggled to maintain a high profile during the COVID-19 pandemic and sustain the momentum he had built up in his lightning-quick run toward becoming the Democratic nominee.
The UAW also endorsed Clinton in 2016. The union has said it believes a higher-than-normal 32% of members voted for Trump.
The Trump campaign had no immediate comment.
Asked this month what his path to victory is, Biden pointed to “high school educated, working class people, some of whom moved to Trump last time” as a key group he needs to court.
On Saturday, a Biden campaign official unveiled a new paid media strategy and noted several key states where the campaign is advertising. Michigan was first on the list.
The U.S. Justice Department has a wide-ranging corruption investigation of the UAW and last month charged the union’s forrmer president, Gary Jones, who stepped down in November, and previously charged 13 others.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit said in March a federal takeover of the UAW is among the available options.
Reporting by David Shepardson; additional reporting by James Oliphant and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Sonya Hepinstall and Dan Grebler