Almost 50k GM automotive workers went on strike early Monday, led by the United Auto Workers (UAW), after failed contract negotiations with the company on Saturday. After over a decade, it is the first nationwide strike. Workers and union demanded fair wages, affordable healthcare and job security. According to CBS News, workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S. as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses. 

The strike may affect entire North America

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, an independent research organization, expressed the impact will ripple fast across North America.

“There’s great reliance on cross-border trade in engines and transmissions and other parts to support production in Canada and Mexico, so it wouldn’t take long before Canada and Mexico were also shut down,” she said.

After failed negotiations, the UAW spokesman, Brian Rothenberg said “at midnight tonight, the picket lines will go up,” at a news conference in Detroit on Sunday. According to GM’s most recent earnings report, it has been making striking profits, $11.8 billion last year alone. However, union officials waited for their contract to lapse around midnight. GM leadership has sought to contain the company’s health care costs, but union leadership told workers to refuse to confirm a contract that makes health care more expensive for them.

“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said.

Closing GM factories and corruption scandal angered workers

The nationwide auto strike came down after GM closing four of its factories, and FBI corruption investigation to UAW leadership. Thousands of workers lost their jobs, and now the company refuses to sign a fair contract with them. Workers are angry and they also have concerns about the recent FBI investigation.

According to an interview done by Jane Slaughter of Labor Notes, Sean Crawford, who works as a material handler in the body shop at GM’s Flint Truck Assembly, said the corruption scandal affects people’s trust in leadership.

“Absolutely. Nobody benefits from having a weak leadership at a time like this except the company. It makes me furious—these guys have been going against the very values that are supposed to have formed the union, helping your brothers and sisters, being on the ground floor with them… These people are in their ivory tower, living lives of luxury at our expense. It’s disrespectful to the people who gave their lives to build this union in the first place,” said Crawford.

In response to whether it is a general cynicism from years of not getting good contracts or because of the recent corruption, he said since 2007 “when the union let two-tier in, the union hasn’t been the same. [In that contract wages for new hires were cut in half and they lost pensions and retiree health care. –Editors of LN] Now we have a philosophy of cooperation with management.

You’re not going to get a class-conscious result from a pro-cooperation philosophy. We have to reexamine the very roots of why we’re doing this and who we’re doing this for.

I have ‘Team UAW GM’ jacket from 2011, with the GM logo and the UAW logo next to each other. My grandma [who was a GM worker] would not have understood what planet those people were from who designed that jacket.”

Crawford also said they were not ready nearly enough.

“Everything is very top down; you have to wait for direction from [the International]. There’s not a lot of room for worker input. We didn’t have a union meeting all summer,” he continued. “We get our information from the same sources as anyone else.”

WHAT THE LEFT IS SAYING: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY Representative, Democrat:

“Incredibly inspired by GM’s almost 50,000 workers for having the courage to strike for the dignified work they deserve.

In a time of record profits, workers should prosper, not suffer.

That’s why unions play a key role in an economy that works for everyone.

Solidarity w/@UAW🌹”

Bernie Sanders, Vermont Senator, Democract.

“I am proud to support the @UAW workers who are standing up to the greed of GM. Our message to GM is a simple one: 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.”

WHAT THE RIGHT IS SAYING: 

Donald J. Trump, the US president.

“Here we go again with General Motors and the United Auto Workers. Get together and make a deal!”

Andrew Wilkow, Conservative Radio Journalist.

“All this #UAW strike will do is encourage more auto makers to move to #RIghtToWork states in the south.”

Written ByEkim Kilic

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