Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won another key endorsement from organized labor Monday in the race for Michigan governor, this time from the state's largest union.
The announcement by the United Auto Workers, which came less than five months before the August primary election, was the latest in a string of positive developments for Whitmer. She secured support earlier from many other unions — including the state's second-biggest, the Michigan Education Association.
At the UAW's international headquarters in Detroit, President Dennis Williams said "there is no better candidate" than Whitmer, a former legislative leader who he said "has stood with working men and women for a long time." The UAW has 385,000 active members and retirees in the state.
Other Democrats running to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder include businessman Shri Thanedar, who has spent more than $1 million on TV ads; ex-Detroit health director Abdeul El-Sayed and retired business executive Bill Cobbs.
El-Sayed landed support last year from the 13,000-member Michigan Nurses Association and some progressive groups. However, Whitmer — who has more political experience than her Democratic opponents — now has won the backing of 15 statewide labor organizations representing more than 850,000 workers and retirees. This month, she also picked up endorsements from the Teamsters and the state's four Democratic U.S. House members.
Whitmer said when she was a lawmaker, she fought for a UAW local that represents state workers and opposed the GOP's 2012 enactment of right-to-work laws, which made union fees voluntary. She also opposed bills that would have repealed a law requiring "prevailing" wages on state-financed construction projects, which nonunion contractors are now trying to bring before the Republican-led Legislature as initiated legislation.
"It's been a long time since Michiganders have had a governor in their corner," Whitmer said. "But we are unifying, we are bringing people together and we are locking arms — because it is time for us to start setting the agenda here in Michigan again."
Whitmer told UAW members that she would fix the roads, protect their economic security, strengthen the schools, and fight for their safety and right to collectively bargain.