UAW Strike Finds Support From Democratic Presidential Candidates

Sanders walks a picket line in Cedar Rapids, August 2015

Democratic presidential candidates are standing behind nearly 50,000 General Motors United Auto Workers who are on strike.

The workers are on the picket line demanding fair wages, better benefits, and are hoping to reopen a closed factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan joined a few of the workers Monday afternoon on the picket line in Lordstown.

On Tuesday, he joined workers in Parma, Ohio.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra made nearly $22 million last year — 281 times the average GM worker. The company pays nothing in federal income taxes and received a $514 million tax break from President Donald Trump’s administration.

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney is one of many Democratic presidential candidates also supporting the unionized GM workers.

“I grew up in a union family and fully support the rights of workers to organize and fight for jobs, better pay and benefits,” Delaney said, in a statement to Iowa Starting Line. “I also believe unions are the only organizations in the country who each day advance the cause of hard-working families.

“Today and every day, I am proud to stand with workers and fight for better wages and improved working conditions,” Delaney said. “Large corporations like GM should accept the responsibility they have to our communities and follow America’s basic bargain — when you work hard, you deserve to get ahead. I support GM workers.”

The GM strike began just after midnight Sunday when UAW’s vice president Terry Dittes informed the union members negotiators weren’t able to strike a deal on wages, health care benefits, temporary workers or profit sharing.

Job security is also on the minds of union workers as thousands of GM employees have lost their jobs and GM factories have closed in recent months as part of a restructuring.

GM announced Tuesday afternoon the company was cutting off access to health care to its striking employees. The UAW promised to take care of its workers by paying for benefits through COBRA.

“At a time when the CEO of General Motors has received a $22 million compensation package and top of the line benefits, it is cruel and outrageous that GM has cut off the health care benefits from their employees in a blatant attempt to force the union into submission,” said Senator Bernie Sanders in a statement. “This is the type of corporate greed that the American people are sick and tired of. I say to General Motors: Restore the healthcare benefits that your workers have earned and deserve.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said on Twitter his grandfather was an assembly line worker at a Ford plant outside of Detroit, contributing to his support for the striking workers.

He showed me the power of collective action as a powerful force for good that can improve people’s lives and right injustice,” Booker said. “I stand with UAW workers who are putting it on the line and going on strike to stand up for fairer wages, better benefits, and the reversal of plant closures that have decimated communities across our country.” 

Tom Steyer said he’s always been a partner with labor workers, and that’s why he stands with the UAW members who have tirelessly worked to produce GM automobiles.

Last year those workers enabled GM to turn a profit of $8.1 billion. In return, GM should put the welfare of its workers above perks for its top executives, and provide fair wages, affordable health care, and secure jobs,” Steyer said. “Two weeks ago I called on GM CEO Mary Barra to do the right thing by the planet and join her fellow automotive executives in adhering to California’s stringent emissions standards, over opposition from the Trump administration. Today, I ask her to do the right thing by her own workers.”

Other candidates have taken to social media to express their support and share solidarity with the striking workers.

California Sen. Kamala Harris released a video saying workers are striking for the right to “dignity of work and the dignity that should always come with work.”

“Throughout our country unions have organized, marched, negotiated and fought for the rights and for the fairness for working people of America,” Harris said. “And I want to thank you, United Auto Workers, for everything you’ve done. I stand with you in solidarity.” 

Workers on the picket line are making $250 a week, which is nearly a $1,000 cut for some of the top earning GM employees, who make $30 per hour.

GM’s workers are picketing at more than 50 plants scattered across 19 states in the Midwest and the South.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a tweet that a job is about more than a paycheck.

“It’s about dignity and respect. Proud to stand with the UAW to demand fair wages and benefits for their members,” Biden said. “America’s workers deserve better.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a former union-side labor lawyer, said on Twitter he knows how difficult of a decision going on strike is for hardworking employees and their families.

“They deserve better wages, benefits, and job security,” Bullock said. “A company generating record profits should pay workers their fair share.” 

The strike is a first for UAW since 2007. The New York Times reported the walkout could cost the company tens of millions of dollars a day.

GM had no comment Monday on how the negotiations were going, according to the newspaper. 

But on Sunday, GM told the Times: “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.”

According to Politico, the White House is trying to help end the strike by reopening the shuttered factory in Lordstown.

“Federal mediation is always possible, if that’s what they want,” President Donald Trump said Monday at the White House. “Hopefully they’ll be able to work out the GM strike quickly. We don’t want General Motors building plants outside of this country.” 

GM brands include Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet. The companies have enough inventory on lots to supply new vehicles for 98, 89, 84 and 72 days, respectively, according to USA Today.

UAW has the support of the Teamsters, who have vowed to stop delivering GM vehicles to dealers during the strike.

 

By Paige Godden
Photo from a 2015 picket line in Cedar Rapids
Posted 9/18/19

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