As the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike extended into its seventh day, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined striking workers at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.
More than 45,000 GM employees began striking on Sept. 15 and are fighting for higher wages and a path to permanent jobs for temporary employees. The strike is estimated to cost GM $50 million a day before taxes and interest.
Warren, whose presidential campaign revolves around taxing the wealthy and regulating corporations, said that GM is “demonstrating that it has no loyalty to the workers of America, or to the people of America; their only loyalty is to their own bottom line.”
“When unions win, all American workers win. Let’s be clear: Unions built America’s middle class and unions will rebuild America’s middle class,” Warren said. “We are sick and tired of an America that works for a thinner and thinner slice at the top and isn’t working for anyone else. We are on this picket line today to say that we’re going to make this America work for everyone.”
Warren’s visit comes just a day after a Des Monies Register/CNN/Mediacom poll showed her narrowly topping former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa. But Warren brushed the news off, telling reporters, “I don’t do polls; we are still months away from the Iowa caucuses and the first primary elections.”
Before walking the picket line with striking workers, Warren, Attorney General Dana Nessel and U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) met with UAW Local 22 President Wiley Turnage, UAW Local 22 Vice President Monique Watson, UAW Region 1 Director Frank Stuglin, UAW Region 9A Director Beverley Brakeman, and UAW workers Troy Fisher and John Hatline. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler walked the picket line later Sunday.
Nessel said she is not making a formal endorsement in the Democratic primary but praised Warren for visiting the plant.
“It’s so important to me that people who are running for president appreciate and support the role that the UAW is playing in terms of protecting workers,” Nessel said. “I’m thrilled that Sen. Warren is among those that understand the significance.”
Former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who was in Detroit as part of a nationwide bus tour for her new group, Supermajority, brought the striking workers pizza.
Two of Warren’s opponents in the Democratic primary – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) – also have visited striking GM workers in Michigan, while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.t.) plans to join them.
Levin, who has endorsed Warren and joined her at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, also held a solidarity rally of his own at the GM Warren Transmission Plant.
“Here’s all I want to say to you as your congressman: This is why I ran. This is what being a congressman means to me, standing out here with you,” Levin said. “We have no chance of having justice in this country unless we have strong unions that can win good contracts.”
State Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren), a former teacher, said at the rally that some are forgetting the labor movement’s history too quickly.
“As a teacher, after 15 years, I taught history; I taught union history. And when I see people on Facebook who have so quickly forgotten after less than 100 years what it means to not have unions, not to have the strength to stand together, not have self-determination for your work conditions. … We have to remind them. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it,” Stone said.
Other legislators at the rally included state Sens. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Paul Wojno (D-Warren) and state Reps. John Chirkun (D-Roseville), Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park), Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield), Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) and William Sowerby (D-Clinton Twp.).
The Detroit Free Press reported Sunday afternoon that the strike could go on for at least another week, until UAW members approve any tentative agreement. Typically, strikes end once a tentative agreement is reached.
Mike Mucci, a UAW member who has worked for Aramark for seven years, said that he would be happy with a deal as simple as nearly continuing their previous contract, which expired 18 months ago.
“They never put a contract in front of us to deny. I would be happy if we just kept our benefits, kept our things the way we got with a slight increase throughout the years, but they’re not; they’re trying to chop,” Mucci said.
“After they’ve had the most profitable years in General Motors’ history,” the company is still trying to make cuts, he added.
Mucci said the added attention will help them negotiate.
“Any publicity, any support from the community is good support. We want the community to know we’re out here every day, so if a politician wants to come in, take some pictures, so be it, we’ll listen to her,” Mucci said. “It’s not going to be us couple General Motors guys versus a billion dollar corporation. It’s going to be UAW, all of us together.”
UAW leaders welcomed the attention from politicians.
Stuglin, who met with Warren earlier in the day, told striking workers to “remember the politicians who are out here because we’re going to support them like you support us.”