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Biden discusses economic, pandemic recovery with labor, business leaders

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — A meeting with a group of top business and labor leaders on Monday signaled to President-Elect Joe Biden that both sides are ready to unite to get the economy back on track and the virus under control.

"They represent very different perspectives, but I'm convinced that we can all come together around the same table to advance areas of common ground," Biden said after the meeting. 

In this Nov. 9, 2020, file photo President-elect Joe Biden speaks The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del.

The president-elect virtually gathered executives from a range of industries including General Motors Co. and Target Corp. to labor leaders from the United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO to discuss moving forward with an economic recovery while battling a pandemic. Several states, including Michigan, have reinstituted previously ended restrictions that include closing some businesses to stop the coronavirus surge across the U.S.

"We all agreed that we want to get the economy back on track," Biden said. "We need our workers to be back on the job by getting the virus under control. We're going into a very dark winter, things are going to get much tougher before they get easier. That requires sparing no effort to fight COVID, so that we can open our businesses safely, resume our lives and put this pandemic behind us."

Biden added that everyone on the call agreed part of the effort to stop COVID-19 means backing a national strategy with measures that include a face mask mandate, increased availability of testing, use of therapeutics and safe and free distribution of a vaccine. They all also acknowledged the need for states and localities to get funding needed to get through the pandemic. 

"The UAW has had productive ongoing discussions with our Detroit-3 counterparts and other employers about protocols to keep our economy moving and at the same time make tough decisions to protect UAW members and all working Americans," UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. "But we all expressed today to the incoming administration an acute need for an immediate economic package for those hard hit by this pandemic, help for our states and our frontline providers and specifically to protect the health and safety of UAW members in the workplace."

Biden discussed "the need to own the electric vehicle market" during the call. 

GM has an aggressive electric-vehicle strategy that includes delivering 20 electric vehicles globally by 2023. Electrification, Biden says, will help create 1 million auto industry jobs, but  since electric vehicles have fewer parts, not as many workers are needed to make them like their gas-powered counterparts. Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV were not invited to attend Monday's discussion. 

Also participating in Monday's call were: Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO; Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union; Satya Nadella, president and CEO of Microsoft Corp.; Brian Cornell, CEO of Target Corp.; Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap Inc. 

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bykaleahall