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Biden meets with Illinois auto workers ahead of campaign reception in Chicago

President Biden joins Illinois auto workers as plant is set to reopen
President Biden joins Illinois auto workers as plant is set to reopen 02:44

CHICAGO (CBS) -- President Joe Biden arrived in Illinois to meet with auto workers and attend a Chicago fundraiser. 

On Thursday afternoon, he spoke with the United Auto Workers union members and Gov. JB Pritzker in Belvidere, near Rockford.

It was his first stop before heading to Chicago for a campaign reception.

The president's visit focused on re-opening an assembly plant that Stellantis closed back in March. That plant will bring back the 1,200 jobs that were lost.

Before he began speaking, Mr. Biden put on a red UAW shirt to loud cheers from the audience.    

President Biden in Illinois as auto workers celebrate reopening of assembly plant 02:23

"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," Mr. Biden said in prepared remarks. "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."  

"For almost two years, we've been laser-focused on working toward a permanent solution to protect workers here in Belvidere — one that retains and grows good-paying jobs and supports economic development throughout the region," Pritzker said in a statement.  

Stellantis is also investing in battery manufacturing, adding over 1,000 more jobs.

The Belvidere plant opened in 1965 and at its peak employed more than 5,000 workers, but as sales started to decline, Stellantis started layoffs. The plant idled in February.

The prospect of a shuttered plant in the small city became a priority for the president. Biden vowed to keep factories open after decades of closures in the Midwest.

"You made this happen," Biden told the auto workers. "You are changing the face of the country economically."

Longtime union workers said the new contract will benefit their families in Belvidere and that they can stay in their hometown.

"We fought for this product," said Dawn Simms, a 24-year UAW member. "We fought to keep our families here in Belvidere. I've voted yes for this contract. This is our home and we deserve to stay here. This contract is a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel."

Following his speech, Mr. Biden will hold a campaign reception in Chicago. It's unclear whether he'll discuss or address Chicago's ongoing migrant crisis.

Pro-Palestinian group protests Biden visit to Chicago, demands cease-fire in war 01:27

Mayor Brandon Johnson was in D.C. just last week asking for federal help. 

So far, that has only come in the form of a new federal pilot program that will speed up a process that typically takes months and help migrants apply for work authorizations. 

That program begins Thursday and means every day, 150 migrants will be able to apply for those work permits.

Also on Thursday, hundreds of people gathered in West Town to protest Biden's visit to Chicago. The demonstration was organized by the Coalition for Justice in Palestine. They called for the president to back a cease-fire in Gaza and for the U.S. to stop arming Israel.

"He's responsible," said one of the protesters. "He has the power. He's able to shut it down. He's able to stop them and because he's not, he's complicit and he's responsible and that's why we're here." 

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