UAW strike against GM reaches Day 2 as Trump could side with union

Detroit Federation of Teachers union President Terrence Martin and Executive Vice President Lakia Wilson join UAW members on the picket line | Ken Coleman

Almost 48 hours after the UAW kicked off a strike against General Motors, other unions walked the picket line to support their union brothers and sisters. 

Striking UAW members at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant | Ken Coleman

On Tuesday, GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant union workers were joined on the picket line by the Detroit Federation of Teachers members. 

“Companies like GM would not be the flagship institutions that they are without the hard work of union members in Michigan and across the country,” said David Hecker, president of American Federation of Teachers Michigan, and Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association in a joint statement. “It’s time for GM to come to the table and listen to the needs of UAW members and negotiate in good faith to give workers the wages and benefits they deserve.”

Meanwhile, Politico reported on Tuesday that the White House is engaged in talks to settle the dispute and President Trump could be siding with the UAW in an effort to boost his reelection chances in Michigan and Ohio in 2020. 

UAW wants GM jobs returned to Michigan from overseas, ready for long strike

About 48,000 GM workers went out on strike Monday, the first major work stoppage since 2007. After making big concessions during the auto industry’s near-collapse last decade, the union wants long-term temporary workers to be made permanent employees, more jobs coming back from overseas and benefits to be maintained.

GM has reportedly offered $7 billion in new investment that included rebooting “unallocated” assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio, as well as an improved profit-sharing formula, wage increases and other benefits.

Donald Trump | Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Trump said on Monday he hoped that the UAW’s national strike was “a quick one.” However, Randy Freeman, president of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 652 in Lansing, told the Advance on Monday that the union is prepared for a prolonged strike.

“My relationship has been very powerful with the autoworkers, not necessarily the top (UAW) person or two but the people that work doing automobiles,” Trump said about the strike. 

He said he was “sad” about the strike and tweeted on Saturday: 

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

Dem presidential hopefuls back UAW workers in strike

Dozens of Democratic officials, including several presidential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have lined up to back the union. Several Michigan lawmakers have walked picket lines, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn).

GM employee Spencer Young | Ken Coleman

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), an independent automotive research organization in Ann Arbor, told the Advance that the roots of the strike are in the concessions the UAW made during the GM’s bankruptcy in the Great Recession.

GM posted an $8.1 billion profit last year, but announced it would be eliminating roughly 14,000 jobs.

Spencer Young is a General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant employee and UAW member. 

“We want fair wages, fair health care and they are steadily getting millions of dollars in profits and steadily taking from us,” Young told the Advance on Tuesday. “We stood with them during the bankruptcy. Now it’s time for them to stand with us.” 

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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