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Sen. John Fetterman to Detroit Three auto execs: How many yachts do you need?

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Sen. John Fetterman to Detroit Three auto execs: How many yachts do you need?

Sep 17, 2023 | 9:39 am ET
By Andrew Roth
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Sen. John Fetterman to Detroit Three auto execs: How many yachts do you need?
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U.S. Sen. John Fetter (D-Pa.) joins striking UAW workers outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. on Sept. 16, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) on Saturday joined striking autoworkers outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. Fetterman said he drove about five hours from Braddock, Pa., in his UAW-made Ford Bronco to get to the plant.

“I always stand for the union way of life,” Fetterman said. “Whatever the unions say is in their best interest, that’s what I’m going to stand for.”

For the first time in history, the UAW has declared a strike against all three domestic automakers: Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The union has three initial strike targets: Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant, GM’s Wentzville plant in Missouri and Stellantis’ Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The union Labor is fighting for increased wages, a 32-hour work week and better pension benefits, among other issues such as an end to tiered compensation between workers with different lengths of service.

Fetterman called President Joe Biden the “best labor president in recent time.” He spent about 15 minutes talking to workers, although not all were supportive.

 

One worker, wearing an “Impeach Biden” shirt, shouted to “get the dude who’s trying to say he’s John Fetterman out of here,” citing baseless conspiracy theories that Fetterman has a body double and never recovered from his stroke.

“I’m totally taking a picture with John Fetterman. This is my man right here. You don’t know nothing about labor if you don’t know about John Fetterman,” another worker said over the yelling.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills) said that while he and Fetterman hope the UAW can reach a deal with the auto companies quickly, it’s important to focus on the big picture even if the strikes drag on. 

“When workers get fair wages and see an increase in wages, that’s great for the economy,” Peters said. “The more money you put in the pockets of middle class workers in this country, the stronger our economy is.”

Fetterman offered a contrast between the demands of workers and the combined $74 million earned by the CEOs of the Detroit Three auto companies. 

“It’s $74 million, you know, collectively earning that. How many yachts can they need to water ski behind? It’s just crazy. Do what’s right for the unions in this nation and in Michigan.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday led a UAW rally in Detroit where he also decried corporate greed. A slew of Democratic politicians were at the event, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) and more.