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GM temporarily cancels shifts as Michigan officials grow increasingly frustrated with blockade

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The Ambassador Bridge from Canada into Michigan appears in a file photo.

The Canadian city of Windsor is seeking a court injunction that would order protestors to end their blockade at the country’s border with Michigan. The move comes as Michigan officials grow increasingly frustrated with disruptions to international trade.

Truckers upset over Canadian vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictionshave been disrupting traffic for days at the Ambassador Bridge leading from Windsor into Detroit, prompting Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, to call on Canadian law enforcement to "responsibly remove" the protestors.

"We have nurses that come over from Canada every single day to staff our already understaffed hospitals," Slotkin said. "So you don't just get to block traffic, international traffic like that, and not, you know, ultimately have to move on and I hope that can be done peacefully."

Windsor's mayor wants the city's request to be in front of a judge sometime Thursday. He added that he hoped forcible arrests would not be necessary.

"We need to appreciate that these demonstrators are our fellow Canadians and that they have a fundamental right to their views and their opinions," Dilkens said. "They don't have a right to affect you or your family's ability to earn a living and they've gone too far."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Thursday for Canadian officials to "take all necessary and appropriate steps" to deescalate the situation and fully reopen Michigan's northern border, although the governor did not specify what those steps should be.

In an news conference later that afternoon, Dilkens said Whitmer's office offered to help end the blockade by loaning security and "heavy equipment" for towing.

The blockade has exacerbated an auto parts shortage. Near Lansing, a General Motors assembly plant in Delta Township temporarily cancelled at least two shifts this week.

At least one of those two shifts will resume Friday, company officials confirmed.

"We are working closely with our logistics providers to mitigate any potential impacts to our production and operations," GM spokeswoman Erin Davis said, adding that about 2,000 workers have been impacted.

Mike Huerta represents GM Delta Township workers as president of UAW Local 602. He says he's grateful that recent cancellations appear to be temporary, unlike when global semiconductor shortages forced a plant shutdown for 11 weeks.

But Huerta says the blockade emphasizes a need to make more components domestically.

"If these parts were made right here in Lansing, right here in Michigan or in the United States, we wouldn't be worried about north of the border, south of the border, east of the border or west of the border," Huerta said. "These problems seem to keep creeping up on us over and over again."

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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