Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio
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Tracy Samilton

Energy and Transportation Reporter / Producer

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.

She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.

Tracy’s reports can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.

Her coverage of Michigan’s Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.

UAW GM workers striking with signs
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

With the strike against General Motors now in the rear view mirror, the United Auto Workers has turned its attention to Ford to reach a new contract with that company.

Wayne State University professor of business Marick Masters says the union uses the first contract it reaches as a pattern for the other two Detroit automakers during talks.

uaw strike signs laying on the ground
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The UAW strike against General Motors is over. Union members voted 57% to 43% to ratify a new four-year contract.

Vincent Gardner was manning his post on the picket line Friday afternoon, a few hours before the contract ratification was officially announced.  But everyone knew the strike was over.  

UAW workers went on strike in Flint Monday.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers strike against General Motors may be nearing an end. Early voting shows the tentative contract is headed toward ratification. 

The strike is the longest against GM since 1970. 

four men holding picket signs
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

More than 60% of Flint Truck Assembly plant workers voted to approve a tentative contract with General Motors.  

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

It rained all day Monday in Romulus, Michigan. 

At GM's Romulus Powertrain plant, strikers had a fire going in a big barrel where they could warm their hands.  

Steven Boyle walked the picket line undeterred, water streaming off his orange poncho. 

"My grandfather was a sit-down striker," says Boyle. "If he was capable of locking himself inside a building for 45 days, not knowing the next time he was going to get a meal...well, bring on -20 degrees, and I'd still be out here. It wouldn't make a difference to me."

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan UAW members walked the picket line in the pouring rain on Monday on day 36 of the strike against General Motors.

wikipedia

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has launched a new initiative to guide the state's transformation to cleaner energy. It's called MI Power Grid. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission is in charge of the initiative. 

MPSC Chair Sally Talberg says part of MI Power Grid will be focused on energy customers, to help them benefit from the transition, and reduce their energy use and costs.

four men holding picket signs
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The UAW and GM have a tentative contract.

The proposed four-year contract could end the longest national strike against the carmaker since 1970. But union leaders still have to sell the deal to a rank and file that's been on the picket line for a month.

four men holding picket signs
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As the UAW's strike against GM enters its fifth week, the two sides may finally be close to reaching a proposed deal on a new contract.

The talks have been unusually difficult, with negotiators struggling to resolve disputes over job security, temporary workers, health insurance, and wage increases. 

Joint Base San Antonio

Five people have now died of Eastern Equine Encephalytis or EEE in Michigan. The illness is spread by mosquitos. The latest victim lived in Cass County.

Lynn Sutfin is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

She says people should not let down their guard, even though freezing temperatures are forecast for some parts of lower Michigan Monday night.  

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan is experiencing its worst-ever outbreak of a sometimes deadly illness spread by mosquitoes. 

It's called Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE (Triple E) for short.   

Schools in West Michigan have been rescheduling a lot of outdoor sports these days to avoid dusk. That's when mosquitoes, possibly carrying EEE, are most active.

uaw strike signs laying on the ground
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers strike against General Motors is in its third week, and it's costing a lot of people a lot of money.

"At this point, it's already quite painful in the United States, particularly in metro Detroit, says Patrick Anderson, CEO of the Anderson Economic Group.  "And our estimated wage losses are already above $400 million right out of people's paychecks that work in the automotive industry."

That $400 million estimate includes both striking GM workers and workers in the supplier industry who've been laid off because of the strike.

uaw strike signs laying on the ground
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers has rejected General Motors' latest proposal for a new four-year contract.

The union says the offer fell short on many issues, including job security.

Hand washing
Pixabay

State officials have not identified any additional cases of a new virulent strain of Hepatitis A in the past 100 days, since an outbreak began three years ago in Michigan.

The outbreak resulted in 738 people being hospitalized (so far), and 30 deaths (so far).

Going 100 days without a new case is typically the factor leading officials to call an outbreak over.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar expressed support for the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump on Sunday in Madison Heights.

VanDeWege for President

Mark VanDeWege says as a boy, he always dreamed of running for President of the United States. That dream has become a reality.

VanDeWege, a father of two kids who works from home for an architectural design company, says he figured, "why not file with the FEC to run for President? After all, it's free."  

UAW
UAW

There are a few signs that negotiators are getting closer to a deal on a new four-year contract between General Motors and the United Auto Workers, as the union's strike against the company entered its 11th day.

GM announced on Thursday it would reinstate health insurance benefits for striking workers, after suddenly canceling the benefits the week before. The automaker says the benefits will be paid for at its own expense, not the union's.

The Detroit News also reports that GM asked its delivery truck contractors if they would be ready to start up again if the strike ends, or if they will need time to get drivers and trucks ready.

DTE Energy

DTE Energy says it is committing to achieve net carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

The term, "net carbon neutrality," means reducing carbon emissions, along with offsetting emissions by supporting outside carbon reduction efforts, in order to achieve a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions attributable to the utility.

Trevor Lauer, president and chief operating officer for DTE Electric, says the path to 100% carbon neutrality will require utilization of technologies that are not currently fully developed.

Enbridge Energy

Enbridge Energy says it will begin to immediately install 54 additional steel supports along a section of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. That's after the company received a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the work.

Mike Shriberg is with the National Wildlife Federation. He says it's a good idea to add the supports, but even so, the aging Line 5 needs to be shut down as soon as possible.

Consumers Energy

A newly introduced bill in the state House would allow people to buy shares in a solar array. The concept is called community solar. The bill was introduced by Representative Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton).

Each subscriber would pay a portion of the cost of constructing the solar array, and they would get a credit on their electric bill for the electricity produced.

Ed Rivet is with the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum. 

He says under the bill, 10 or more people or groups could support clean energy even if they can't install their own rooftop solar panels.

That could include renters and condo owners, businesses or places of worship.

Judge's gavel with books on a desk
Pixabay.com

The city of Troy faces a second lawsuit alleging its zoning ordinances discriminate against religious groups. 

This time, it's the U.S. Department of Justice suing.  

The justice department lawsuit says Adam Community Center bought a building in one of Troy's business districts, intending to use it as a mosque.  But the city of Troy refused to grant zoning approval for such a use. 

The government says Troy's zoning ordinances treat places of worship worse than nonreligious assemblies, a violation of federal law. 

Richard Truesdell

A newcomer to the auto industry world will produce 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon.

Rivian, which has its design and engineering center in Plymouth, Michigan, got its start in 2009.

Amazon says the vans will help it meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2040.

Large investors in Rivian include Amazon, along with Ford Motor Company, and Cox Automotive.

Rivian is also developing an electric sports pickup, and an electric large SUV.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit has installed four public fast-charging stations for electric vehicles near DTE Energy's headquarters downtown.

The project is a collaboration among DTE Energy; General Motors; Planet M, which is the state of Michigan's mobility initiative; and Blue Energy, the supplier of the stations.

UAW workers went on strike in Flint Monday.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers say General Motors canceled health insurance for more than 49,000 striking workers Monday night, without any notice.

The move means employees will need to sign up for COBRA insurance. COBRA is the federal insurance program for people who are out of work.

The union will have to dig into its strike fund more deeply than it apparently planned because of the decision.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

On day two of the United Auto Worker's national strike against General Motors, I caught up with UAW member Jessie Kelly, right after her four-hour shift on the picket line at GM's Warren Tech Center. 

Kelly, a 29-year-old single mom of one, is in a skilled trades apprentice program at GM. It's a long way from her early days with the automaker, when she was a temp. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 49,000 General Motors plant workers are walked off the job starting just before midnight on Sunday. That's after the union failed to reach a deal on a new four-year contract with GM.

On Sunday morning, in a preview of a much bigger planned strike, a maintenance workers union in Flint also represented by the UAW went on the picket line.

“Solidarity forever!” the workers shouted.

This scene is expected to be replicated at all of GM's manufacturing plants around the country.

Detroit skyline with GM building
Pixabay.com

Update: Sunday, September 15, 11:59 a.m.

The United Auto Workers union says its contract negotiations with General Motors have broken down and its roughly 49,000 members will go on strike just before midnight on Sunday. The union's contract with GM expired Saturday night and union officials said the two sides were far apart on economic issues.

GM issued the following statement on Sunday morning:

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight. We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.” 

A solar farm developed by Cypress Creek Renewables
Cypress Creek Renewables

The Michigan Public Service Commission has given the green light to a case settlement between Consumers Energy and independent solar companies that could dramatically increase solar power in Michigan.

Michigan currently has about 167 megawatts of capacity from solar, which is not a whole lot.   Consumers Energy has agreed to buy 584 megawatts of additional solar from independent companies over the next four years.  

Noah Hyte is with Cypress Creek Renewables, one of the companies party to the agreement. He says there's enough sun in Michigan to make it worthwhile to build lots of solar here.

GM

New research shows advanced safety features in cars can dramatically lower the incidence of certain crashes, especially when the features are combined.  

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute compared crashes between GM vehicles with advanced safety features and those without the features. 

In many cases, the difference in crash rates was very large. 

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