Trump and his GOP opponents address the nation from Earth 2
Republican presidential candidates coud just as well have been speaking Wednesday night from Earth 2. They ignored completely the threat to democracy posed by Donald Trump and by their complacency with his policies. The only criticism they had was that he doesn't show up for their so-called debates. They also discounted the significance of the nationwide UAW strike. Mark Terrill/AP

This Wednesday evening, at the second Republican presidential debate, all seven of Donald Trump’s competitors for the GOP nomination for the presidency could just as well have been talking to the nation from a perch somewhere on Earth 2. Not one of them even mentioned the piles of criminal indictments and the findings of fraud Trump is facing.

The best they could do was to criticize him for not showing up to debate with them. All of them agree with almost all of his fascistic policies anyway, so if he did show up one wonders what type of “debate” would happen.

On Earth 2 Trump’s crime is that he won’t get on the Fox News stage with them, not that he tried to overthrow the government and threatens to actually do it this time if he is elected.

Meanwhile, speaking from another location on Earth 2 last night, Trump, the notorious worker-hater, tried to get people to believe that he had the backs of the nation’s striking auto workers.

Also apparently operating from Earth 2, most of the major media covered last night’s events as if they were just part of the regular back-and-forth of political campaigns. The high stakes involved, whether democracy will survive in the United States, were of little apparent concern to most of the talking heads on cable television. The fact that the current strike by the UAW is a massive uprising of a key section of the nation’s multi-racial, multi-national working class was also totally lost on them. On Earth 2 Biden’s visit to the picket line is nothing more than a clever political maneuver. It is certainly not, as it is on Earth 1, the president joining a historic nationwide movement for economic justice.

It was Shawn Fain, president of the UAW, grounded as he is on Earth 1. who pointed out the “pathetic irony” of Trump, after President Biden joined workers on the picket line, accepting the invitation of the non-union Drake Enterprises.

On Earth 2 the non-union auto manufacturers and the life-long virulently anti-worker Trump are the folks who have the workers’ backs.

The totally fake “populist” Trump and his supporters in the GOP are trying to convince both the auto workers and the public that there is opposition to conversion to electric vehicles which explains the strike underway now against the Big 3. The UAW does not oppose the conversion. What it wants is a “just” conversion, with the production of such vehicles in union shops at union wages. And the strike, of course, is about getting back what they gave away years ago to keep the automakers afloat.

Trump went to the non-union plant outside Detroit on September 27 to toot his political horn by using electric vehicles as a wedge issue in his race to reclaim the White House by diverting attention from the real reasons for the strike.

In response, the AFL-CIO trotted out a long background analysis of Trump’s real anti-worker record, citing everything from appointing anti-worker Labor Secretaries and National Labor Relations Board members to his schemes to destroy federal worker unions and even evict them from their offices. It didn’t mention electric vehicles.

“The idea that Donald Trump has ever, or will ever, care about working people is demonstrably false,” said federation President Liz Shuler as she walked a picket line with United Auto Workers members outside Detroit, the same day Trump spoke and a day after Democrat Biden became the first incumbent U.S. president to join and speak at a picket line.

“For his entire time as president, he [Trump] actively sought to roll back worker protections, wages, and the right to join a union at every level. UAW members are on the picket line fighting for fair wages and against the very corporate greed that Donald Trump represents,” Shuler continued.

“Working people see through his transparent efforts to reinvent history. We are not buying the lies that Donald Trump is selling. We will continue to support and organize for the causes and candidates that represent our values,” Shuler declared.

Tries to cloud the issues

To try to reduce the understanding workers have of his real role, Trump, as usual yesterday, played on fears, especially among white working-class men. He falsely claimed that EVs would leave auto workers jobless. He ignored the fact that workers can and will fight for a just transition.

“Yesterday Joe Biden came to Michigan to pose for photos at the picket line, but it’s his policies that send Michigan auto workers to the unemployment line,” Trump charged.

Trump seized on those electric vehicle (EV) fears to try to drive a wedge into the UAW, orating to a carefully screened crowd of 500 factory workers, including present and former auto workers, at the Drake Enterprises plant 20 miles outside Detroit. Some waved “Unionists for Trump” signs.

“My pledge to everyone is that a vote for President Trump means the future where the automobile will be made in America,” he blared. “It will be fueled by American energy, sourced by American suppliers, it will be sculpted from American aluminum and steel, and it will be built by highly skilled American hands and high-wage, American labor.”

Those are all lies, as shown by his past record, the AFL-CIO backgrounder says.

Most importantly, Trump denounced what he called Biden’s “EV mandate.” That’s the administration’s plan, being implemented by the car companies, and backed by UAW, to transition the U.S. from gasoline and diesel-powered cars, trucks, and SUVs to electric-powered ones.

Doing so would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists declare cause global warming. But doing so also sends shivers up some auto workers’ spines, including the retirees and scattered active UAW members in Trump’s carefully screened 500-person crowd.

Ford, GM, and Stellantis—formerly known as FiatChrysler—aren’t exactly calming those fears among the union’s 150,000 Auto Workers who toil at the car companies, either. Right now, 18,000 are out on the union’s “Stand Up!” strike that began at midnight September 14-15. UAW expects to tell more locals to walk on September 29 at noon. The union is both striking and bargaining with the Detroit 3.

On Earth 1 the key issues are restoring wage losses that occurred since the financier-caused crash which bankrupted GM and FiatChrysler 15 years ago, elimination of the auto firms’ two-tier wage systems, restoration of traditional defined benefit pensions, a cut in work hours and elimination of mandatory overtime, and higher pension payments for retirees, who haven’t had a raise in over a decade.

The corporate class that runs the car companies plans to invest billions of dollars into converting their plants to EV production. Some estimates start at $35 billion. They’re using that looming spending as an excuse to resist UAW members’ pay demands. Never mind they invested billions in stock buybacks over the last decade, UAW figures show, making Wall Street financiers happy.

And the companies have made clear that it takes a lot fewer workers to make EVs than to manufacture traditional gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. Of those fewer workers, the car companies want to shove many into EV battery plants, at a lower wage scale, not on whatever wages they agree on with the UAW.

And while the UAW and the car companies all back the shift to EVs, Biden irked the union when his administration awarded the first two EV battery plant subsidies, worth $9.2 billion, to firms—joint ventures—in anti-union red states Kentucky and Tennessee, and not in swing-state and pro-union Michigan.

As a result, while other unions, including two big independent unions, the Service Employees and the National Education Association, joined a mass AFL-CIO endorsement earlier this year of the Biden-Harris ticket, the UAW stayed away.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.