Former President Donald Trump has been accused of staffing an event in Michigan with non-union workers.
The Republican skipped a second primary debate and found himself in battleground Michigan on Wednesday, a day after President Joe Biden became the first sitting president in U.S. history to walk a picket line when he joined the United Auto Workers in Detroit.
Trump gave a speech at Drake Enterprises, a non-union auto supplier in Clinton Township, where he sought to appeal to auto workers by railing against Biden’s push for electric cars and downplaying the UAW strike.
“You’re all on the picket lines and stuff, but it doesn’t make any difference what you get because in two years you’ll all be out of business,” he said.
However, the composition of the event’s audience came under scrutiny after it was reported that at least some of the people in the crowd were not union members or even auto workers, even though the speech was aimed at them.
The Detroit News reported that there were about 400 to 500 Trump supporters in the audience at the event, which was filled with pro-Trump signs and MAGA hats. Drake Enterprise employs about 150 people, the newspaper reported, and the UAW does not represent its workforce.
A person in the crowd holding a sign that read “Union Members for Trump” admitted that he was not a union member when approached by a reporter, while another person holding a sign that read “Auto Workers for Trump.” wore said he was not a union member for auto workers when asked for an interview. None of the people gave their names, the newspaper said.
The report prompted the Republicans Against Trump report. post on Xformer Twitter that “it looks like the Trump campaign paid off wrestlers in Michigan today to pose as union auto workers. Everything about Trump is fraudulent.”
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said that “unlike President Biden, who actually conducted a walkout with actual striking UAW workers yesterday, Mr. Trump appeared at an invitation-only event at a non-union auto supplier this evening, where he was invited by management to speak.” “
Journalist Aaron Rupar wrote, “Trump acts like he’s talking to UAW workers even though he’s in a non-union shop.”
Asked about the claims, Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump, said Newsweek that it was “fake news”.
“As the New York Times and many other media outlets reported that UAW members and other union members from many industries were in attendance,” he said.
The Associated Press reported that while Trump aides said the audience would include several hundred current and former UAW members, as well as members of plumbing and pipefitter unions, there would also be many non-union workers who support Trump. Tony Duronio, 64, a longtime Trump supporter and real estate agent who lives in Clinton Township, told the AP that he received an invitation to the event from a group called Autoworkers for Trump.
During his speech, Trump repeatedly called on the UAW to support him, at one point appealing directly to UAW President Shawn Fain.
Although the UAW has so far refused to endorse Biden, Fain appeared alongside the president during his visit on Tuesday but refused to meet with Trump.
“I don’t see the point in meeting him because I don’t think the man cares at all about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for,” Fain said on CNN Tuesday. “He caters to the billionaire class and that’s what’s wrong with our country.”
Fain also called it a “pathetic irony” that Trump chose a non-union facility to host a rally for union members.
The UAW and Drake Enterprises were contacted via email seeking further comment.