Former President Donald J. Trump plans to travel to Detroit on the day of the next Republican primary debate, according to two Trump advisers with knowledge of the plans, wading into the labor dispute between striking auto workers and the country’s major automakers.
The trip, which will include a prime-time speech to current and former union members, is the second consecutive primary debate Trump has skipped to conduct his own counterprogramming. He attended an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that was posted online during the first Republican presidential debate in August.
The decision to go to Michigan just days after the United Auto Workers went on strike shows the extent to which Trump wants to be seen beyond his main rivals, and the reality that he and his political apparatus are already focused on the possibility of a rematch with President Biden.
So instead of attending the next Republican debate, on September 27 in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Trump intends to speak before more than 500 workers, and his campaign plans to fill the room with plumbers, plumbing installers, pipeliners, electricians, as well as auto workers, according to one of Trump’s advisers familiar with the planning. Trump has not directly addressed the wage demands of striking workers and has attacked union leaders, but he has tried to side more broadly with autoworkers.
The campaign is also considering the possibility of Trump appearing at the picket, although the adviser said such a visit, which could involve difficult logistics given the former president’s security protections, is unlikely.
The former president has long prided himself on his appeal to rank-and-file union workers, even as most union leaders have remained hostile toward him and Biden has called himself the most pro-union president in history. In the 2016 campaign, a Trump adviser, Paul Manafort, sought establish a return channel with unions in Michigan and Wisconsin in hopes that the AFL-CIO would reduce its efforts to help Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. She didn’t seem to go anywhere, but she highlighted areas Trump considered vital in the general election.
Trump won Michigan in the 2016 election, one of the so-called blue wall states that collapsed for Democrats that year. But Biden won Michigan by more than 150,000 votes in 2020, and it is seen as a critical state for Democrats in 2024.
The Trump campaign has produced a radio ad that will begin airing Tuesday in Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, attempting to portray Trump as aligned with autoworkers. The same Trump adviser said the ad was aimed at unionized workers and men and will air on sports and rock stations.
“All they’ve ever wanted is to compete fairly around the world and get their fair share of the American dream,” the narrator says in the ad. “Donald Trump calls them great Americans and he has always had their back.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized the transition to electric vehicles and, in a post on his social media site Truth Social over the weekend, called it an “electric car scam.” The radio ad also uses the Biden administration’s support for the transition to electric vehicles to attack Biden.
The announcement does not specifically mention the strike, which began last week against the big three Detroit automakers, and in which The union is seeking a 40 percent pay increase over four years..
Ammar Moussa, press officer for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement: “Donald Trump is going to Michigan next week to lie to Michigan workers and pretend he didn’t spend his entire failed presidency selling them out at every turn.”
Mr. Biden has on the side of striking workers, sending two top advisers to Detroit and saying at the White House hours after the strike began that “workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create.”
The United Auto Workers union clearly stated decided not to endorse Mr. Biden this spring Ahead of the current labor standoff, the union’s new president, Shawn Fain, expressed concern about the labor elements of the transition to electric vehicles. At the same time, in a memo, Fain said Trump would be a “disaster” if he returned to the White House.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired over the weekend, Trump criticized Fain and said workers had been “sold down the river by his leadership.”
“I don’t know the gentleman, but I know his name very well and I don’t think he’s doing a good job representing his union,” Trump said. “Because in three years he will not have a union. “All those jobs will disappear because all those electric cars will be made in China.”
In a statement after The New York Times reported on Trump’s plans in Detroit, Fain said that “every fiber of our union is being invested in fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of Workers. “
“We can’t continue electing billionaires and millionaires who don’t understand what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck and fight to get ahead and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” he said.