Protesters take aim at GM at auto show Charity Preview

Nora Naughton Keith Laing
The Detroit News
People gather near the Joe Louis statue before the doors open to the Charity Preview in 2017.

Party-goers at Friday's Charity Preview at the Detroit auto show will be met with protests from lawmakers, environmental groups and the United Auto Workers. They will be pushing back against the plan by General Motors Co. to idle five factories in North America, affecting some 6,300 blue-collar employees in the U.S. and Canada.

The UAW will host a candlelight vigil at Hart Plaza from 5-7 p.m. Friday with union workers from Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown Assembly, two of General Motors Co.'s plants slated to indefinitely idle later this year.

“This year for many autoworkers it is not a celebration," Terry Dittes, UAW vice president, said in a statement. "They invested in General Motors to make record profits only to see their plants idled while Mexican production is increasing. America expects GM to build product in their biggest selling market right here in the USA . So, on Friday our members will have a vigil to remind all of those going to the auto show's big night that we were there for them in their darkest hours, and now we need them to invest in us, all of us.”

Additionally, a group of 16 organizations that are planning to protest GM's decision to idle the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. The rally, called "Make Detroit the Engine of a Green New Deal," will take place 5:30-7:30 p.m. outside Cobo Center. 

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is expected to attend both events.

"This shameful announcement comes at a time when the company is reporting record profits and its CEO, Mary Barra, makes $22 million a year," the Green New Deal protest's organizers said in a statement. "Meanwhile, as GM proclaims its commitment to a 'zero emissions' future, it has decided to pull the plug on the hybrid Volt, which is manufactured at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, so it can focus on gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs.

"GM has no right to displace over 14,000 workers, their families, and their communities," the protest organizers continued. "These facilities are not just the 'property' of a corporation. They belong to the workers who have contributed their labor, and the taxpayers who have provided enormous tax breaks, public subsidies and bailouts to GM." 

Groups participating include Autoworkers Caravan, Boggs Center, Breathe Free Detroit, Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, Detroit Eviction Defense, Detroit Jews for Justice, Detroit League of Revolutionaries for a New America, East Ferry/Warren Community Association, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, OneHamtramck, Soulardarity, Sunrise Lansing, Unifor Local 222 Political Action Committee, Unifor Local 222 Retired Workers Chapter, We the People Michigan and Detroit IWW GMB Solidarity Committee.

The Canadian autoworkers union Unifor has no concrete plans for protests.