YPSILANTI, MICH. – The Detroit Three are offering to bus workers from auto plants across southeast Michigan to President Donald Trump’s rally in Ypsilanti on Wednesday — a move that is drawing criticism from at least two union officials who say the president doesn’t really support American workers, and that they don’t want UAW members to become political props.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors told workers they will transport them to and from Trump’s rally, provide lunch and cover their pay for the day if they miss a shift at their plant. Ford will do the same, but will not cover their pay.
The event puts both automakers and the UAW squarely in the middle of touchy presidential politics. For automakers who have been targeted by Trump for moving jobs to Mexico, the event provides another opportunity to ask the administration for help on regulatory and policy issues. For UAW leaders, the event is an opportunity to find common ground on free-trade issues.
The union, however, is in sharp disagreement with many of the Republican president’s other policies.
UAW President Dennis Williams has repeatedly said he disagrees with Trump on health care, immigration, the environment and most other major issues. But Williams supports Trump’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has applauded Trump’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 14-nation agreement that included the U.S. and a number of Asian nations.
Gabe Solano, president of UAW Local 372 in Trenton, said he doesn’t remember automakers ever offering to bus workers to an off-site political event to see a president speak.
“I have been at Chrysler for 23 years, and I have never seen this kind of approach. We have never seen them go out of their way to pay people to go to a rally,” said Solano, who represents UAW members who make engines for Fiat Chrysler. “I find it amusing that Trump’s camp always likes to say Democrats are paying people to attend rallies. It’s kind of ironic now that companies are paying people to attend Trump rallies.”
His local has distributed a flyer urging workers to boycott Trump’s rally, saying that the president “threatens our jobs and our way of life!”
The flyer states: “Trump rally not endorsed by the UAW.”
Charles Bell, president of UAW Local 1700 in Sterling Heights, said he has declined an invitation to attend, and he posted a statement about the decision on the website of his local, which represents workers at Fiat Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.
“I think, in my opinion, that he does not have the…