Jamie L. LaReau
Detroit Free PressPublished 6:04 PM EDT Jun 16, 2020General Motors said it will recognize Friday – the day known as Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. – with 8 minutes, 46 seconds of silence to support the Black community.The time frame represents the length of time a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of a Black man named George Floyd on May 25 before Floyd died. The videotaped incident has prompted weeks of protests against police brutality across the country and around the world.The news comes a day after GM’s self-driving subsidiary, Cruise, said it recognizes Juneteenth as a holiday. A GM spokesman told the Free Press on Monday that GM also had plans to mark the day.The moment of silence recognition was outlined to GM employees Tuesday afternoon in an internal memo from GM President Mark Reuss.“I really believe eight-plus minutes of solid reflection will benefit everyone,” Reuss wrote. “I’m sure many of you have felt the same glut of emotions I have while watching recent events unfold … disbelief, anger, shame, grief, and ultimately heartbreak. This is not who we are as humankind, nor as a country.”Car sales: The coronavirus pandemic can’t stop Americans from buying pickupsLooking to buy a car?: Hertz is selling thousands of used cars in its fleet in bankruptcy at bargain pricesIn a statement Tuesday, GM said: “This Friday, June 19, we’re asking the General Motors team to observe 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence as a sign of solidarity with the Black community and our support of the struggle against continuing racial injustice. Our aim is to be the world’s most inclusive company and we see this is a another powerful way to remind everyone of our values and our goals.”For GM workers in factories, the time of silence will occur at 8:46 a.m. for the first shift and 8:46 p.m. for the second shift, spokesman Jim Cain said. Third-shift workers and other global employees will determine their times separately. GM encourages its U.S. salaried workers to participate in the morning.GM has about 180,000 employees worldwide, 100,000 of which are in the United States.GM has been supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement since the protests started. Late last month, CEO Mary Barra penned a letter to all employees saying she will commission and chair an Inclusion Advisory Board made up of internal and external leaders, effective by the end of the quarter. Its goal is to inspire GM to be “the most inclusive company in the world.”GM has also set aside $10 million to donate to organizations that will support racial equality.In May, Toyota Motor North America and GM each made the 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 list – the only two car companies recognized. Toyota surged to No. 10 from No. 18. And GM ranked No. 30.Reuss ended his note saying the moment of silence is not an empty gesture.“We are at our best when we remember who we are as a company, and when we take care of one another,” he said. “This is an opportunity to remember that, and celebrate it, and use it as a stepping-stone on the path forward toward the kind of change that will make the world a better place for all.” Follow Jamie L. LaReau on Twitter: @jlareauan.
Jamie L. LaReau