President Joe Biden took a victory lap through Belvidere on Nov. 9, celebrating a new United Auto Workers contract with Stellantis and the company’s surprise decision to reopen an idled assembly plant in the community.
“I applaud the UAW and Stellantis for coming together after hard fought, good faith negotiations to reach a historic agreement that will guarantee workers the pay, benefits, dignity and respect they deserve,” Biden said in prepared statement. “This contract is a testament to the power of unions and collective bargaining to build strong middle-class jobs while helping our most iconic American companies thrive.”
It was the first visit by a sitting president to Belvidere and a rare stop in the region by any U.S. president. Then-President Gerald Ford made a campaign swing through Rockford in 1976 while President Ronald Reagan visited nearby Dixon in 1984.
Biden donned a red UAW shirt before addressing a crowd of union members, dignitaries and supporters at a community center.
“American workers are ready to work harder than anyone else,” Biden told the enthusiastic crowd. “But they just need to be given a shot. A fair shot and a fair wage.”
The tentative contract agreement must still be approved by UAW members. Terms of the deal announced on Oct. 28 include:
- The reopening and removal of “idle” status for the Belvidere auto plant;
- A plan from Stellantis to build a new EV battery plant and support electric truck manufacturing at existing facilities with incentives from the state,
- And the employment of 3,000 auto workers with higher wages and expanded benefits.