As United Auto Workers members strike against all three Detroit automakers simultaneously, Northern Michigan lawmakers are offering mixed levels of support for the union and are calling for a swift resolution to be reached.
The UAW, for the first time in its history, is striking against all Big Three auto manufacturers, targeting one location for each — a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis facility in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford assembly in Wayne, Michigan. Around 13,000 workers at these plants began to strike in the early hours of Friday upon the expiration of their previous contract.
Among other demands, the UAW has called for a 36% raise over the next four years, an end to pay discrepancies between new and old employees, and expanded benefits, including that employees work 32 hours per week but be paid for 40 hours.
Rep. Betsy Coffia, D-Traverse City, offered her support for the union on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“I am proud of my working class roots & proud of every worker who asserts their right to respect, dignity & fairness in the workplace,” wrote Coffia. “It’s a fundamental truth that when there are record profits workers should get a fair share of the wealth their labor has produced.”
She signed her message off with an encouragement of “solidarity.”
Rep. Dave Prestin, R-Cedar River, said that it was “unfortunate that they weren’t able to come to a compromise” before a strike was called.
Prestin said that lack of industry security stemming from electric vehicle production and general economic discontent contributed to action from the union, but that the UAW’s current asks were probably “exorbitant.”
Prestin stressed the wide-ranging economic impact a prolonged strike could have throughout the country as auto-related industries could grind to a halt.
“The trickle-down effect of the projected possible strike would be felt by far more than just the Big Three alone,” he said. Prestin added he was hoping both sides would be able to negotiate and compromise on some of the policies being debated.
“I hope we don’t get in to a situation where each each side is siloed into their position and refuses to bend,” he said. “There has to be compromise, there has to be understanding on both sides as to the realities of the economy that we’re dealing with and what the workers can afford to deal with.”
Legislators beyond northern Michigan were quick to offer their support in the early hours of the morning following UAW president Shawn Fain’s announcement of the targeted strike.
House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, released a statement encouraging a mutual conclusion to be reached.
“Michigan’s economy benefits when workers and industry negotiate together, in good faith, to reach consensus,” wrote the leader of the House Democratic Caucus. “Support for Michigan workers is a top priority for House Democrats, and our legislative accomplishments and agenda are a reflection of our commitment to help build a strong workforce and a thriving economy.”
Tate added that he hopes the parties come to a swift resolution.
“The auto industry is Michigan’s legacy and its future, and there is surely a path forward that ensures our workers and our economy can continue to thrive,” he added.
Stacey LaRouche, press secretary for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, provided the following statement Friday mid-day:
“We are staying in close communications as negotiations for fair contracts continue. In Michigan, we’ve proved that it’s possible to support working men and women, while also securing record-breaking economic development deals that will guarantee jobs and investment for decades. Since taking office, we have landed over 36,000 auto jobs, securing Michigan’s place as a top state for electric vehicle and battery investments. We will always have working people’s backs and bring good-paying union jobs to Michigan from overseas.
“The strength and vitality of Michigan’s economy depends in equal parts on our skilled and dedicated labor force, as well as the Big Three Automakers whose industry has long defined our state economy. We’re hopeful all parties can come together during these negotiations to continue building on the momentum Michigan has seen these past four years and position us for even greater prosperity in the years ahead.”