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Ohio’s Brown is among US Senate Democrats sending letter to automakers over labor organizing

Rally and march in Downtown Detroit organized by UAW members on strike.
Luis Yanez
Rally and march in Downtown Detroit organized by UAW members on strike.

A six-week strike last fall gave way to historic contracts for workers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, considered the Big Three of American auto manufacturers.

Now, labor union United Auto Workers is using the momentum to organize drives elsewhere, in plants that weren't previously unionized. A bigger share of automakers are non-union—and one of the U.S. senators from Ohio said if it stays that way, it better be because that's how workers wanted it.

In a letter sent last Thursday to 13 automakers whose workers are not unionized, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and another thirty U.S. Senate Democrats warned manufacturers' chief executives not to interfere with organizing efforts if they materialize.

“I'm not asking Tesla, and I'm not asking or demanding Honda or Hyundai or any of them, ‘Hey, you got to unionize,’” Brown said in an interview. “I'm just saying, don't put your thumb on the scale. Let the workers decide.”

The letter instead asks that chief executives instead publicly commit to staying neutral.

“A neutrality agreement solely consists of an employer agreeing not to engage in pre-election activities that influence workers’ freedom to form a union,” the letter reads. ”Your commitment to neutrality would ensure that management does not pressure workers into voting against unionization or delaying the election process.”

It also cites UAW claims that managers at different plants have broken labor laws to push back on organizing efforts.

Brown said he and other senators haven’t yet heard from any of the automakers they addressed the letter to, which included Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. The full letter is available here.

Across sectors, there are less than 400,000 UAW members—down from a once-high of 1.5 million. In 2022, about 10.1% of American workers were in a union, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at