Democrats Try to Navigate a Looming Strike in a Swing State

Barring a last-minute breakthrough, more than 7,000 workers are set to walk off their truck and bus assembly lines on Friday night in the swing state of North Carolina, injecting the United Automobile Workers’ new activism in the South directly into the 2024 election.

North Carolina has never been hospitable to organized labor, and the midnight strike at the North American subsidiary of the German industrial giant Daimler Truck has been greeted with trepidation by the state’s Democratic establishment, which has long tried to project a moderate, pro-business bent.

But Shawn Fain, the U.A.W.’s brash new president, doesn’t much care.

“We don’t expect politicians to save the day, but at the end of the day, politicians have an obligation to the people that elect them,” he said in an interview on Thursday, adding: “It’s our generation-defining moment. This is a time where politicians need to pick a side.”

In September, President Biden joined the picket line of the U.A.W.’s successful strike of the Big Three U.S. automakers, and Thursday, a White House spokeswoman, Robyn Patterson, indicated that the president could be equally aggressive if there was a Daimler walkout.

“President Biden strongly believes that those benefiting from our strong support for manufacturing made in American should work in good faith to do everything possible to ensure jobs — including those in North Carolina — remain well-paid, middle-class jobs, and that all workers have a fair and free choice to join a union if they choose,” she said.

Democratic leaders in North Carolina, including Gov. Roy Cooper, were far more equivocal — and deferential — to Daimler Truck, a major employer in the state.

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