Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has made eight visits to the White House during Joe Biden’s presidency. She has been at the forefront of the auto industry’s adoption of his electric vehicle plans. The president has worked towards building a strong bond with her over the years.
However, the current strike by the United Auto Workers could potentially cause issues for Biden as Barra, a close corporate ally of the White House, is involved.
The strike by UAW members may put pressure on the president, who often boasts about his connection to labor unions, to consider the needs of a wealthy car company CEO who pushed for the transition to electric cars, as well as the demands of employees who desire better wages for constructing these vehicles.
Biden is facing a lot of pressure due to various factors. Along with regularly visiting the White House, Barra has significantly contributed to the government’s creation of a nationwide electric vehicle charging plan. Furthermore, Biden has established a strong political image over the past few decades, targeting working-class voters in crucial states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. He is determined to solidify this image in order to secure his re-election.
According to Paul Bledsoe, a former member of President Bill Clinton’s climate task force and current employee at the left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute, it is important for him to prioritize the worker and consumer leading up to election day. This is a reflection of the current political climate.
The White House rejected the notion that Biden’s connection with Barra would weaken his longstanding backing of labor.
According to a statement from White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson, President Biden has been recognized as the most supportive president for labor unions in history. The president understands that a strong middle class leads to economic growth and recognizes the crucial role of a robust labor movement in achieving this. As the leader of the Administration, the president establishes the tone, policies, and priorities.
Biden has shown his backing for the UAW workers who are on strike, but he has also maintained communication with the auto executives. This is understandable as the president has urged them to assist in meeting his goal of replacing numerous gas-powered vehicles with electric ones by 2030. He aims for half of all car sales to be electric or plug-in hybrids by that year.
There are not many large industries that are in agreement with the White House, and not many top executives have a strong relationship with the administration like Barra does.
The Detroit News reported that she will be employed by GM’s Vice President, David Strickland. Strickland was previously a member of the Obama administration and served as the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to Ginivan, a representative for GM, Jeff Ricchetti does not engage in lobbying with the White House Office. She also stated that Owens, who has expertise in sustainability and has worked in corporate sustainability for several years, is not a lobbyist.
The statement mentioned that the Biden Administration, as well as local, state, and Federal policymakers, have been updated on the progress of negotiations in 2019. It also stated that there was ongoing communication with the Trump Administration throughout the process.
The amicable rapport between Biden and Barra has been acknowledged in the world of politics. A former General Motors lobbyist stated that House Republicans have been irritated by Barra’s previous interactions with the White House. Additionally, some members of the Business Roundtable, which Barra chairs, have voiced unease about her close relationship with the White House, according to a lobbyist who has collaborated with these CEOs. The lobbyists requested anonymity to discuss confidential discussions.
A spokesperson from Business Roundtable stated that their CEO members are dedicated to collaborating with both the Administration and Members of Congress of both political parties in order to push forward policies that promote economic growth and provide more opportunities for all American citizens.
Some individuals in the workforce are concerned about the fact that the White House is building a relationship with Barra. Despite President Biden’s strong support for unions, there is apprehension that certain members of his administration may have a biased perspective influenced by corporate interests.
Last week, a labor leader informed POLITICO that while the president understands the situation, those surrounding him do not.
Officials from the Biden administration have noted that the president has already gained support from the AFL-CIO and other prominent labor unions. Additionally, last week, the president urged the Big 3 to make more progress in their talks with the striking employees. His statements were commended by certain progressive organizations and labor advocates. However, Biden did not officially endorse the strike and acknowledged that automakers have made substantial proposals.
Regardless of the strike’s result, General Motors is currently attempting to increase its influence in Washington.
The company is seeking a director of federal affairs in Washington D.C. who is capable of handling connections with influential members of Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus.
GM stated on its website that the individual will have the responsibility of creating policies and advocating for them with the U.S. Congress and other federal agencies.
This report was initially published by Climatewire, a branch of E&E News.
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