Nearly 50,000 GM workers began Striking for fair wages, decent healthcare benefits, and their share of General Motors’ “record-level profits,” just before midnight Sunday following failed contract negotiations.
These United Auto Workers walked off General Motors factory floors early Monday as deal talks with the company deteriorated into a strike. The shutdown of 35 manufacturing facilities in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and New York will cost General Motor about $400 million in lost production every day.
“Today, we stand strong and say with one voice, we are standing up for our members and for the fundamental rights of working-class people in this nation,” stated UAW vice president Terry Dittes before the strike.
GM workers began Striking and this national walkout which comes after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired early Sunday, represents the largest auto strike in more than a decade.
According to the New York Times, GM and union leadership are “far apart in the talks” as the company is pushing for “employees to pay a greater portion of their healthcare costs” even as it rakes in large profits.
However, workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.
It wasn’t obvious how long the walkout would last, with the union saying GM has budged little in months of talks while GM said it made substantial offers including higher wages and factory investments.
GM workers began Striking and It’s the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007 that had little impact on the company.
In preparing for the strike, the Wentzville UAW union posted this instruction on Facebook:
General Motors workers joined striking Aramark-employed porters on the picket lines Sunday night at a sprawling factory on the border between Detroit and the small town of Hamtramck.
Worker Patty Thomas stated she wasn’t programmed to picket, but came out to support her co-workers at the car plant, which GM wants to close.
The website for Spring Hill’s UAW Local 1853 is now home to documents of strike directions and information. The last strike in 2007 lasted two days that cost the automaker an estimated 300 million dollars per day.
“Now it has a big impact, we hope they’re able to come to an agreement and work things out,” told Page.
The decision os begins to strike came after about 200 plant-level union leaders voted unanimously in favor of a walkout because contract negotiations with the automaker had broken down.
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“We demand Fair Pay and benefits for the work we perform. We stand united against “race to the bottom” economics and corporate greed. We will win this fight by coming together in true solidarity to last one day longer, one day stronger,” UAW Local 1097 President Dan Maloney announced in a declaration.
“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,” GM responded to UAW.
Contract negotiations are set to continue.
The shutdown of General Motors is a major escalation of the class struggle in the United States and internationally. The powerful social movement that began last year with teachers is expanding into the industrial working class. The decades-long suppression of the class struggle—ruthlessly enforced by an alliance of trade unions, corporations, and the government—is breaking down.
As workers begin this fight, they must survey the battlefield and develop a strategy based on an understanding of who are their allies and who are their enemies.
Workers are facing General Motors, the type of the power of American capitalism, with a market capitalization of $55 billion. But GM is itself part of the globally-integrated auto industry, involving the labor of millions of workers all over the world.
Every fight by workers has a political dimension, but in this case, the politics are particularly bright. The auto industry has, for 40 years, been the purpose of efforts by Democratic and Republican administrations to expand corporate profits at the expense of the working class.
40 years ago, in 1979, the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter and a Democratic Party-controlled Congress insisted that the bailout of Chrysler required huge concessions by workers and the closure of factories. This was followed soon after by the Republican Reagan administration’s firing of PATCO air traffic controllers, which launched a wholesale assault on the entire working class.
“Autoworkers deserve good wages, comprehensive benefits, and economic security,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Twitter:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who last month unveiled a plan to strengthen worker protections and double union membership, tweeted Sunday that he is “proud to support the UAW workers who are standing up to the greed of GM.”
“Our message to GM is a simple one,” said Sanders. “End the greed, sit down with the UAW, and work out an agreement that treats your workers with the respect and the dignity they deserve.”