“If it was not built in the United States don’t buy it,” says Dennis Williams.

“American made” doesn’t always mean made by an American brand.

In early February, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Dennis Williams advised during a press conference, “if it was not built in the United States don’t buy it.”

But how does this assertion fit into the historic “Buy American” sentiment that is often espoused by the UAW?

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Sonari Glinton, NPR business reporter, about the issue.

“Think about how complicated it is to do that,” says Glinton. 

“While I’m going through this horrendous experience of being in an auto dealership… let’s check the VIN number, make sure that that was built in [America].”

“What we know about these ‘buy American’ programs from history is that it goes back to William Randolph Hearst during the Great Depression: buy American, hire American,” he says. “What does hire American mean? And it often turns into… racism.”

The UAW has recently seen an increase in membership after decades of decline. Glinton explains that many shifts in the last few years have contributed to this.

Ford payrolls have essentially doubled since the Great Recession, so that means… there are more union members paying dues,” he continues. “And all unions, you must understand, are gauging themselves against President Trump… National strife or war or military conflict can sometimes see a spike in union membership. So along with the good times for the UAW… there’re a lot of people throughout the labor movement who are really hunkering down to sort of get ready for what might happen during the Trump administration.”

To hear more of the conversation on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.


  • Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.