Michigan United, a coalition of labor, business, social service and civil rights members, has a new leader who is pledging to fight white supremacy.
Ken Whittaker, a Detroit native, will take the helm as executive director on April 5, replacing the group’s longtime leader and founder Ryan Bates, who will shift to a consulting and advising role. Whittaker will also head the group’s sister organization, Michigan People’s Campaign, a group advocating for economic and racial justice.
“I’m so proud of Ken’s leadership and know that he’s ready to take Michigan United to the next phase of our growth,” Bates said at a news conference Thursday. “His compassion, heart, experience and personal resilience are traits that will serve him well. He is well-loved by the staff and community, and I know he will work relentlessly to serve them both.”
Whittaker joined Michigan United as a volunteer in 2017, helping lead the effort to increase the minimum wage. He also served as director of movement politics, overseeing thousands of volunteers who encouraged people to vote in hard-to-reach communities.
“In the coming years, you can expect Michigan United to double down on what we do best, bringing people together to end white supremacy and turning back the many ways it impacts everyone’s lives,” Whittaker said. “Ryan has really set us up for success. People across the state are seeing how we are all in the same fight. It’s amazing what we’ve built together. I can’t wait to put it into high gear and see what we can do.”
Before joining Michigan United, Whittaker served in numerous leadership positions within the state and national Democratic Party. The Michigan Democratic Party named him Young Democrat of the Year.
“The Board of Directors is very pleased that our new leader will come from our own team. It says a lot about Michigan United that our next executive director started as a volunteer and worked his way up,” board President Aamina Ahmed said. “It shows that we’re an institution that prioritizes leadership development and cultivating advocates from the communities we serve. Ken was absolutely the right choice, and we know that he will take us towards a strong, equitable future.”
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