Trump will skip second GOP debate to give speech to striking workers

Former president chose not to attend first GOP primary debate of 2024 season last month

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 27 September 2023 15:41 BST
Related video: Biden tells auto workers they ‘deserve a raise’ at Detroit picket line

Donald Trump will skip the second Republican presidential primary debate and speak to a crowd of union workers in Detroit amid the ongoing auto strike.

The snub comes after Mr Trump also skipped the first GOP debate of the season last month, choosing instead to sit down with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson for an interview broadcast on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The former president, who stands well ahead of the crowded Republican field in the polls, has downplayed the importance of the debates.

“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had, with Energy Independence, Strong Borders & Military, Biggest EVER Tax & Regulation Cuts, No Inflation, Strongest Economy in History, & much more,” he wrote on Truth Social in August. “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”

The lack of a debate presence has done little to impact his front-runner status.

A national average of polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows Mr Trump with almost four times the support of his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, with a projected 54.7 per cent support among Republican voters to the governor’s 13.9 per cent as of 26 September.

The union speech could be an attempt to further peel off support from blue collar workers, a traditional bloc of support for Democrats but which has been moving towards the Republicans over the course of at least the last decade.

Donald Trump skipped the first 2024 GOP debate and reportedly intends to miss the second one, planned for 27 September at the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California
Donald Trump skipped the first 2024 GOP debate and reportedly intends to miss the second one, planned for 27 September at the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Nearly 150,000 auto workers are represented by the United Autoworkers, which has accused the “Big Three” Detroit automakers of failing to offer wage increases that’ve kept pace with executive compensation and company profits. About 18,300 members have gone on strike in targeted areas.

“For the last 40 years, the billionaire class has been taking everything and leaving everybody else to fight for the scraps,” UAW president Shawn Fain said in a speech last week. “We are not the problem. Corporate greed is the problem.”

After the 2008 financial crisis, Detroit automakers underwent major restructuring as part of the federal financial bailout.

Part of that restructuring included major changes to working conditions including a two-tiered, tenure-based pay schedule, an increase in temporary workers, and the end of defined-benefit pensions — all issues the union is hoping to tackle with its set of demands.

“Part of what’s motivating [wage increases] is an interest in the workers sharing in the success that the company has been experiencing, and share in it in a way that seems commensurate with the way that the corporate leadership has shared in that success,” Sharon Block, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Center for Labor and a Just Economy, told Vox. “When you think about it as an increase that represents a fair share of profits from three very profitable companies of late, it may look different.”

President Joe Biden joined striking workers on the picket line on Tuesday, becoming the first president to do so.

He told the workers to “stick with it” and that “you deserve the significant raise you need”.

When asked if the autoworkers deserved the 40 per cent raise they’re demanding, he said: “Yes. I think they should be able to bargain for that.”

“The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 ... you made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. Now they’re doing incredibly well and guess what? You should be doing incredibly well,” the president said.

Mr Trump called the Michigan visit “nothing more than a PR stunt from Crooked Joe Biden to distract and gaslight the American people from his disastrous Bidenomics policies that have led to so much economic misery across the country”.

Gustaf Kilander contributed to this report

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