BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — President Joe Biden visited Belvidere Thursday to celebrate the reopening of the Belvidere Assembly Plant and the historic contract between Stellantis and the United Auto Workers union.
The President left Washington at 9:30 a.m. aboard Air Force One and arrived at the Chicago Rockford International Airport around 11:30 a.m. He was greeted on the tarmac by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, and Rep. Eric Sorenson (D).
He then went to the Belvidere Community Center to meet with autoworkers prior to delivering remarks aimed at “highlight(ing) his commitment to delivering for working families and creating good-paying union jobs.”
“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,” said Biden. “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.”
Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Belvidere ahead of the President’s visit, chanting “Shame on Joe Biden” as UAW members filed into the Belvidere Community Center to listen to Biden speak.
One protestor momentarily interrupted Biden’s speech, calling on the president to initiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Biden met with UAW President Shawn Fain and marked the reopening of the factory, which was saved in contract negotiations.
Biden highlighted his “commitment for delivering for working families and creating good paying union jobs, as well as UAW’s historic agreement that includes bringing thousands of UAW jobs back to Belvidere and reopening a plant, which is incredibly important,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
“This reopening will create thousands of jobs, highlight the President’s commitment to rehiring and retooling the EV and EV battery jobs in the same communities where auto jobs have created good paying union jobs for decade,” she added.
“American workers are ready to work harder than anyone else,” Biden told a cheering crowd. “But they just need to be given a shot. A fair shot and a fair wage.”
Stellantis is expected to benefit from the 2021 Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act, which provides a 75% state income tax incentive for automakers to retrain employees for EV production.
Stellantis has committed to invest nearly $5 billion to retool the plant for new production, which includes a midsize pickup truck, an adjacent electric vehicle battery plant, and an Amazon-styled Mopar parts distribution center.
The company will reportedly spend $3.2 billion to build an EV battery plant. In July, Stellantis said Illinois had purchased 170 acres of land next to the idled Belvidere plant prior to the union contract expiration. The plant is expected to create 1,300 jobs and launch in 2028. Stellantis said it was part of a joint venture with a yet-unidentified business partner.
Stellantis will invest another $100 million to create a “megahub” parts distribution center for its Mopar brand parts. Stellantis’ plan would shut existing Mopar parts and distribution centers across the country and consolidate them into larger “Amazon-like” distribution centers. Stellantis is expected to begin stamping operations for supply parts in 2025.