Tracy Samilton

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. Before beginning her journalism career, she spent time working as a legal assistant at various firms in the Ann Arbor area.

Copyright 2020 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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

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

GM employee and union member Nicole Henning will head to the picket line on Thursday as she has for the past five weeks. 

The Lansing Delta Township Assembly worker gets the 8 p.m. to midnight shift. She says everyone is working hard to keep up their morale.

"It's cold out there now," says Henning. "It's weird, because the first few weeks, it was warm out, we still wore T-shirts. And now people are pulling out their winter coats and burning a lot of wood and trying to make it through the night."

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.

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.

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. 

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."  

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 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.” 

Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe pulled no punches at a kickoff event for the utility's campaign to encourage customers to use less energy in the war against climate change.

"I cannot stress firmly enough that we are in a crisis and must take action right now," she said.  "We can't do this ourselves, we need your help."

A new survey from Cox Automotive finds that many people remain concerned that electric vehicles cost more than gasoline powered vehicles.

And they think battery range - the distance an EV can go before it has to recharge - is also a reason not to buy an EV.

  Update, 8/19/19 12:53 pm:  David Coulter took the oath of office early Monday afternoon to become Oakland County Executive, after submitting his resignation as Mayor to the City of Ferndale earlier in the day.

Update, 8/19/19, 9:00 am: Ferndale City Council members voted Monday to accept the resignation of Mayor David Coulter. 

Coulter is quitting four months before the end of his last term to take the top job in Oakland County.

Next time you're at the mall or grocery store, look around. You won't see many, if any at all, electric vehicles. Maybe a few hybrids.

But you'll see lots of pickup trucks and big SUVs, which by comparison still merit the derogatory phrase, gas guzzlers.

Climate scientists say global warming will have different effects on different regions in Michigan, and some of those effects may seem counterintuitive.

For one thing, parts of Michigan you might not expect are warming at a faster pace than others.  
 

That includes Petoskey and Traverse City in the northwest, and Alpena in the northeast.

All this week, Michigan Radio's Environment Report will be focusing on climate change and how it's already affecting us in the state of Michigan, and what's expected to change in the future. It's a huge crisis we face now — and that generations to come will face — and it will affect every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to how we travel, to how we live inside our homes.

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