Klobuchar: GM needs to share 'prosperity' with UAW workers

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Detroit — Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar on Thursday lambasted President Donald Trump for not pushing infrastructure development and said General Motors Co. needs to share its prosperity with striking union employees.

Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota, greeted UAW members outside the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly factory as she became the first presidential candidate to visit a UAW picket line in Michigan. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, on Monday visited striking workers outside the idled Lordstown, Ohio plant.

Klobuchar started her day at the Nicholson Terminal & Dock Co. in River Rouge and then went to pass out donuts and talk on Day 4 of the strike to UAW workers picketing outside the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which had been targeted for potential closure. GM has proposed an electric truck investment for the Detroit-Hamtramck facility, which is supposed to remain open through January. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar talks to striking UAW member Andrea Chenault, 34, of Detroit outside GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant about her job security because Chenault is a temporary worker.

GM "has been making a lot of money," Klobuchar said, and needs to let its employees benefit after they had sacrificed and made concessions during the recession.

"This car company was in some bad straits a while back and they bounced back. They bounced back because of these workers," she said. "These workers had had to take a lot of cuts and a lot of changes during that downturn.

"And then we came roaring back. And that means to me that you've got to share it with your workers. And that means better wages. That means health care. It's about shared prosperity that we're all in it together."

Michigan was the second stop of Klobuchar's "Blue Wall" tour after visiting Pennsylvania. She is scheduled to go to Wisconsin later Thursday to address issues in key Midwest states that Trump won in 2016 but Democrats believe they should win in 2020.

"These are the states that we should win if we want to take back the White House," Klobuchar said of her stops in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes or two-tenths of a percentage point in 2016, his smallest margin of victory in the country.

Sonya Gaines, 47, of Detroit, who tests cars at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, greeted Klobuchar and took the box of donuts from the senator, who noticed Gaines lost her voice. Gaines said she was grateful for Klobuchar's visit.

"I'm ecstatic," Gaines said as she marched with her picket sign in a circle with other workers prior to Klobuchar's arrival. "It shows that they are listening to us, and they are paying attention. We unions have set the tone for all American workers and the middle class."

Mark Yaklin, 63, of Warren, who works in the GM paint department, said the presidential candidate's visit is "important for us. We appreciate it. It would help us out, I think."

During her visit to the River Rough facility, Klobuchar said the trade war with China and other countries has affected goods being shipped in and out of ports and the lack of infrastructure funding has also caused problems.

Trump promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure during the campaign, but he has failed to promote a specific plan during his presidency.

"It hasn't happened," Klobuchar said. "So you start to see an inability of our shippers to be able to respond to the competitive needs of our times."

The senator said she understand infrastructure development and doesn't want to "leave the Midwest behind. "...This is about rail and roads and bridges, but it's also about locks and dams and ports and getting goods to market," Klobuchar said about spending more money on infrastructure development.

But Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox criticized Klobuchar's visit and argued voters will reject her vision.

"Amy Klobuchar has called the job-killing Green New Deal ‘aspirational.' I’m sorry senator, but if it’s your aspiration to impose on our state a radical socialist scheme that will kill thousands of jobs and destroy our major industries, you can take your ‘blue wall’ tour elsewhere," Cox said in a statement.

Daniel Deane, the president of the Nicholson Terminal & Dock Co. who led Klobuchar's tour, said his facility needs help with grant applications to help with its business.

Having her visit, he said, "refocuses the importance of the Great Lakes as a trading environment to the entire Midwest manufacturing base of the United States."


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