This evening, rather than attend the second Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump will speak at Drake Enterprises, Inc., in Macomb County, Michigan. The plant is a nonunion truck-parts manufacturer that has nothing to do with the Big Three, where United Auto Workers (UAW) members are waging a historic strike, the first time they have ever taken on all of the three major automakers at once.
Trump is visiting at the invitation of Drake Enterprises’ president, Nathan Stemple, who told Fox & Friends yesterday that “some of our colleagues that we do business with reached out to us,” informing him that Trump wanted to hold a rally and was looking for someone to host.
“We were more than willing to do so,” he said.
When asked how the UAW strike is impacting his company, Stemple said that demand has dropped off for some of the parts his plant produces. The show’s host then asked him how the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) — a Biden administration priority to which the GOP, Trump included, is loudly and firmly opposed — would affect his company.
“Oh, it would put us out of business,” Stemple responded. “If electric vehicles took over today across the board, we’d be completely out of business.”
Well, there you have it, all in a brief television clip: Trump’s visit to Michigan is being coordinated by Michigan’s nonunion auto manufacturers, many of whom oppose the transition to EVs. (Parts suppliers are particularly opposed, as an EV power train requires fewer parts than an internal combustion engine.) Holding such a rally during a strike is the opposite of showing solidarity with union workers. The Republican Party’s faux-populist wing has been trying to convince the public that UAW members oppose it too, and that this is part of their reason for striking. It is not. Rather, it is a segment of auto manufacturers (i.e., the bosses) who object to EVs. The UAW doesn’t oppose the transition; it merely wants it to be just, with jobs in EV plants unionized.
“Trump Is Curating a Crowd”
Chris Marchione, political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 1M in Michigan, told me that nonunion auto manufacturers and the Trump campaign are being assisted in organizing today’s rally by at least one longtime local activist in the state’s “right-to-work” movement. That anti-union movement suffered a major defeat earlier this year, when Michigan became the first state in years to repeal a right-to-work law, but it has by no means ceased its efforts to disorganize workers and undermine their unions.
Marchione comes from a family that includes several generations of UAW members. He says that several members of his family, current UAW members in Michigan, received text messages from that right-to-work activist, also a UAW member, who invited them to attend Trump’s rally.
“People are trying to push that this is organic, but it’s not,” said Marchione.
My cousins are all UAW members. Every one of them got a text message asking if they wanted to go. The organizers are picking who they want. They wanted prospective attendees to pass along their social media profiles. Trump is curating a crowd, and it pisses me off. If he wants to support union workers, pay the fucking glaziers who got screwed when they put the windows on Trump Tower.
When asked on CNN yesterday about Trump’s visit, UAW president Shawn Fain said, “I find a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a nonunion business.” He continued:
All you have to do is look at his track record. His track record speaks for itself: in 2008, during the Great Recession, he blamed UAW members. He blamed our contracts for everything that is wrong with these companies. That’s a complete lie.
In 2015, when he was running for president, he talked about doing a rotation: taking all these good-paying jobs in the Midwest and moving them somewhere in the South where people work for less money, and then making people beg for their jobs back at lower wages.
And the ultimate show of how much he cares about workers was in 2019, when he was the president of the United States. Where was he then? Our workers at GM were on strike for two months. I didn’t see him hold a rally, I didn’t see him stand on the picket line, and I sure as hell didn’t hear him comment on it. He was missing in action.
When asked whether he would be willing to meet with Trump, Fain said he didn’t see the purpose: “He serves the billionaire class, and that’s what’s wrong with this country.”
Invited by the Boss
Later today, we will surely see photos of UAW members attending Trump’s speech at the nonunion shop. Some of them voted for him in 2020, but he is not coming to support union autoworkers but rather use them as pawns to build support in a critical swing state, at the behest of those who would like to destroy their unions and have little interest in raising the quality of jobs in EV plants. When we see those photos, we should ask: How did these members end up at this rally? Who organized it?
As for Drake Enterprises, don’t count on Trump, a guest of the nonunion shop’s boss, to criticize its working conditions, which appear to be dismal. The pay on Glassdoor listings for positions at the plant that do not require a college degree ranges from the mid-$30,000s to around $50,000, with poor benefits. Comments on the site claim that the company offers fewer paid holidays than comparable employers in the industry, and that Drake Enterprise’s sick day and parental leave policies leave much to be desired. Here’s a Google review of Drake Enterprises from three months ago, which twenty-one users marked as “helpful”:
One of the best places to destroy the confidence, morale and enthusiasm of a human being.
Turn over or is it churn over? Sickening.
A tantrum driven, adolescent mentality top boss.
Sensitivity training is a must for the organization’s leadership.
Survival of the fittest is a must. Check your feelings at the door, but keep your head on a swivel.
A wonderful place to work if you’re on work release or in a halfway house.
Who’s to say if the employers of those workers attending Trump’s event might be offering them incentives to do so? I hope that reporters in Macomb County ask the workers about this possibility as well as their pay and working conditions. The Drake Enterprises assembly lines likely won’t run as usual during Trump’s visit, so odds are those workers will at least get to remain on the clock while listening to their boss’s guest.
For now, what we do know is that mainstream publications and cable news have spread, and continue to spread, misinformation about Trump’s visit to Michigan. The rally is being put on by nonunion auto manufacturers to divide workers, strengthen anti-union forces (Trump foremost among them), and weaken a historic strike. And it is the employer, not workers, who are hosting him.
You certainly wouldn’t know any of that if you’d read or watched the news these past few days.
On September 18, the New York Times covered Trump’s outing to Michigan with the headline “Trump to Woo Striking Union Members in Detroit, Skipping 2nd G.O.P. Debate.” The article cited “one of the Trump advisers familiar with the planning” to assert that the former president intends to speak to “over 500 workers, with his campaign planning to fill the room with plumbers, pipe-fitters, electricians, as well as autoworkers.” Yesterday, Reuters published this headline: “Biden, Trump to woo union workers in Michigan as auto strikes grow.” On cable news, talking heads have also asserted and continue to assert – sloppily, incorrectly, far too simplistically – that Trump is speaking to striking workers.
Just yesterday, Politico’s national politics correspondent opened his newsletter by writing, “When Donald Trump heads to suburban Detroit Wednesday to address striking auto workers, the former president will be bracketing Joe Biden’s own visit to the UAW picket line and unofficially kicking off the general election in a battleground state.”
The mainstream media would rather repeat a Trump-manufactured narrative, which uses a strike involving 150,000 working-class people as an object to be exploited for political posturing, instead of informing readers on the basis of fact. It’s proof of the continued validity of critiques of the bourgeois press: it is a propaganda machine by and for the rich, with even liberal outlets putatively opposed to Trump taking his bait hook, line, and sinker. Their coverage of his visit to Michigan is a canary in the coal mine, a warning and reminder as the presidential race heats up: a Trump victory in 2024 would be good for ratings.
An Anti-Worker Billionaire
Donald Trump, to state the obvious, is not pro-worker. His National Labor Relations Board appointments and policy agenda were good for the rich and a disaster for the working class. But that simple point is undermined whenever someone repeats the lie that Trump’s visit to Michigan has anything to do with supporting striking workers.
Comparing Joe Biden’s visit to Trump’s is ludicrous, too. You don’t have to support Biden to see the difference between Trump traveling to a nonunion shop as a guest of the boss and Biden coordinating a visit with the UAW to stand in solidarity with its members on the picket line and, when asked whether he supports the workers’ proposal for a 40 percent raise over the life of the contract, saying yes.
The Trump campaign has not once contacted the UAW. It’s not hard to understand why: UAW president Fain is a working-class leader, and he knows Trump is not interested in the working class, except as a tool for advancing his own aims and the aims of those he represents: the rich.
“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said last week in response to news of Trump’s visit. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding of what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
Whether because they are hungry for clicks or just shamefully credulous, too many members of the mainstream media have done Trump an invaluable service this week, and working-class people real harm. Talk about fake news!