The relationship between the United Auto Workers union (UAW) and US President Donald Trump is a complicated one. UAW President Dennis Williams stands with Trump on trade – as does much of the union, no doubt – even while he disagrees on most other issues, including health care, immigration, and the environment.
Donald Trump’s rally this week at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan put a strain on that complicated relationship. His administration wanted to pack the rally with UAW members, so Ford offered to bus employees to and from the event, and provide lunch, according to the Detroit Free Press. General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did the same, going a step further by telling employees they would cover any pay lost due to attending the rally.
“I have been at Chrysler for 23 years, and I have never seen this kind of approach,” UAW Local 372 President Gabe Solano told the Free Press. “We have never seen them go out of their way to pay people to go to a rally.”
The UAW has a long history of supporting primarily Democratic candidates in elections, as does much of its membership. An internal study by the union found that on November 8th, 59% of its members voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, versus 33% for Trump. The remaining 8% either voted for someone else, or didn’t participate in the election.
For the one-third of UAW members who supported President Trump in November’s election, Wednesday’s rally was a rare opportunity to freely attend the event and, in some cases, to even be paid for it. But for UAW leadership and the union as a whole, the event was perhaps little more than an attempt by the Trump administration to use its members as political props – an unsavory prospect, even if they do share common ground with regard to NAFTA.