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Whitmer encourages UAW, Detroit Three to continue talks hours before contract deadline

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Whitmer encourages UAW, Detroit Three to continue talks hours before contract deadline

Sep 14, 2023 | 5:06 pm ET
By Ken Coleman
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Whitmer encourages UAW, Detroit Three to continue talks hours before contract deadline
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday during the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. | Ken Coleman photo

With a possible UAW strike against the Detroit Three automakers on the horizon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday urged the union and corporations to continue talks. 

“I think that we are all doing our best to keep both parties at the table until there is resolve,” said Whitmer when asked about the effort of the federal state and local government to help broker a contract. 

She made the comment during the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit that she toured with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. 

The UAW approaches a contract deadline at 11:59 p.m. Thursday with the Detroit Three, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The union, which represents nearly 150,000 employees of companies that manufacture U.S.-made vehicles, has been engaged since July in the labor negotiations with the Detroit Three.

Labor is fighting for increased wages, a 32-hour work week and better pension benefits, among other requests such as an end to tiered compensation between workers with different lengths of service. UAW members say tiered compensation hurts workplace morale and cripples their union.

Whitmer was asked about the sexual harassment investigation of head football coach Mel Tucker at Michigan State University (MSU).   

Whitmer encourages UAW, Detroit Three to continue talks hours before contract deadline
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (left) and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday during the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. | Ken Coleman photo

On Sunday, USA Today published a story about Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and prominent advocate who has dedicated her life to educating people about sexual violence, filing a December 2022 complaint with Michigan State University’s Title IX office accusing Tucker of sexually harassing her.

University leadership suspended Tucker without pay on Sunday, about nine months after the complaint was filed with MSU and within hours of the publication of USA Today’s story.

“I am heartbroken and disgusted about what appears to be continually happening at the university,” said Whitmer, an MSU alum. “I have asked for answers. I believe we all deserve answers.”

UAW ‘Stand Up Strike’ strategy

The UAW announced on Thursday a new strike strategy if Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis fail to does not offer contracts to 150,000 auto workers across all three companies, with the launch of a video, new webpage, and educational materials for members and the public.

The “Stand Up Strike” will target a to-be-determined number of facilities to walk out on strike at midnight tonight, if necessary, the union has advised the press. “As time goes on, the strike will expand to more facilities to be announced as needed,” a UAW press release read.

As UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live address Wednesday to tens of thousands of UAW members, “Our goal is to reach a fair agreement. But if the companies continue to bargain in bad faith or continue to stall or continue to give us insulting offers, then our strike will grow. At the beginning, only a select few will strike. Then, as needed, more will join. We will hit where we need to hit, when we need to hit, to move mountains.”

Whitmer encourages UAW, Detroit Three to continue talks hours before contract deadline
A UAW worker at Local 372 in Trenton. | Ken Coleman

Non-striking union locals will be ready to walk out at a moment’s notice, pending direction from national leadership. Those members will be working under an expired agreement, not a contract extension. All locals will continue organizing rallies, protests, and community events, while supporting those members who are on strike.  

If all three companies fail to come to an agreement, it will be the first time in history that the UAW has held strikes at all Big Three automakers simultaneously. 

The UAW held a strike against General Motors for 40 days in 2019.