More than 45,000 workers remain on strike against General Motors after contract negotiations broke down between the company and the UAW. GM has cut off health insurance coverage for striking workers, while details of the two sides’ proposals remain scant. But the broad strokes are clear: As one worker told CNN, it’s a “battle for the middle class.”
GM has made a public relations push claiming it promised $7 billion in investment and 5,000 jobs, but the UAW’s lead negotiator said GM’s first serious offer came just hours before the deadline, too late to avert a strike. According to one UAW local, GM’s pay offer fell short of inflation, while workers’ healthcare costs would have increased. “Two percent is nothing,” a local union leader familiar with the offer told the Detroit Free Press. ”We have not gained back anything we gave up during the bankruptcy.”
That’s a critical point: GM workers made concessions in 2009 to help save the company from bankruptcy, but while GM’s profits were $8.1 billion last year, workers are still stuck with the two-tier system that pays new hires substantially lower wages, and many jobs have been turned over to temporary workers who are treated even worse. Meanwhile, workers point out, the 2015 contract between GM and the UAW prohibited plant closures, but GM went ahead and closed plants anyway, simply using a different terminology—instead of being closed or idled, the plans are “unallocated.” Seeing that, workers were ready. “We have been preparing for over a year because we knew that General Motors wasn’t going to budge from their position too much,” one 45-year GM employee told The Detroit News.
Other unions from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to the Communications Workers of America and politicians like Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continue to come out in support of the striking workers.
This article was originally published at Daily Kos on September 17, 2019. Reprinted with permission.