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United Auto Workers organizing 'peaceful and orderly stand downs' on Juneteenth for George Floyd and racial protests

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Dana assembly technician Brandon Green wears a face mask as he works to assemble axles for automakers, as the auto industry begins reopening amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Dana plant in Toledo, Ohio, May 18, 2020.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

The United Auto Workers union is asking its roughly 399,000 members, including those at the Detroit automakers, to pause Friday, on Juneteenth, in a moment of reflection and support for protests to end racism and hate.

UAW President Rory Gamble sent a note to members Tuesday morning, saying, if authorized and able to do so, to stop working at 8:46 a.m. for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on June 19, an annual day that marks the emancipation of Blacks from slavery in the U.S.

The time frame, as referenced in Gamble’s note obtained by CNBC, represents how long a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd before he died in police custody. The incident, which was videotaped, has led to weeks of protests and rallies around the world, particularly in the U.S.

“It was yet another tragedy in a long and sorrowful history of the divisiveness of racism in this nation. Since that day in communities from coast to coast, we have seen Americans from all walks of life, black, brown and white, stand together to demand change,” Gamble said. “To demand – finally – that we address the systemic racial divide that has plagued our nation since its inception.”

United Auto Workers (UAW) acting president Rory Gamble speaks to Reuters from his office in Southfield, Michigan, November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Gamble said UAW leaders across the country are working with companies to “facilitate peaceful and orderly stand downs.” He encouraged only those members who are authorized by their companies and able to stop work to do so.  

“The UAW leadership is working across the country to facilitate peaceful and orderly stand downs. Some must care for patients or engage with customers. Please do not abandon patients or customers,” Gamble said. “Please figure out a way to engage in the protest in the way that works for you.”

General Motors President Mark Reuss, in a letter to employees after Gamble’s message, said the automaker’s factory employees, including UAW members, as well as salaried employees were being encouraged to participate in moments of silences based on their work schedules. That included at 8:46 a.m. and 8:46 p.m. for moments of silence of 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

A spokeswoman for Ford Motor confirmed the participation of its employees in the UAW’s Juneteenth observance. Fiat Chrysler was not immediately available to comment.

Some companies and organizations such as the National Football League, Nike, Twitter, Target and Cruise, GM’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary, have made Juneteenth a paid holiday.

Making Juneteenth a paid holiday would likely need to be a bargaining issue between the union and Detroit automakers.

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