As dozens gathered on street corners around the gates to General Motors’ Lansing Grand River Assembly plant to continue the eighth day of striking on Monday, freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) joined United Auto Workers (UAW) strikers to share her support.
The strike, which began on Sept. 16, includes more than 45,000 GM employees and is estimated to cost the company about $50 million a day before taxes and interest. Striking workers want higher wages and greater opportunities for temporary employees to fulfill full-time positions.
The last national strike against GM was in 2007 and lasted only a few days.
According to the UAW, strike benefits start the morning of the eighth day. Starting Monday, eligible strikers will receive $250 a week, as long as members who collect the assistance are caught up on union dues and are active participants in picket assignments.
Last week, GM cut off strikers from health insurance. The UAW is now covering the costs of COBRA as part of strike benefits.
“We are here today because we want to show support for people getting what they deserve,” Slotkin said. “In the storyline of the strike, people always forget that it didn’t just start a couple of weeks ago, right? The folks who are out here sacrificed when GM was in the depths of bankruptcy.”
Since 2009, GM has gone from a $50 billion federal bailout to now record profits, and Slotkin says it’s time the company reciprocates the commitment to employees.
“Now that GM is doing much better — they are nowhere near a bankruptcy — we think it’s important that the workers get what they deserve,” she said. “They stuck by GM. They believe in GM.”
As for White House mediation, Slotkin says she doesn’t think the government needs to step in right now.
A Politico report on Tuesday said the White House is seeking to end the strike and looks to be leaning toward the side of the UAW, but the story has since been updated after representatives from the White House and GM both denied that.
“When President Trump suggested that, both sides backed away from it, but I do believe both sides need to come in earnest to the table,” Slotkin said.
So far, there have been no sign of what’s going on behind the closed-door negotiations. Benjamin Franz, vice president of UAW Local 652, said there is a reason for that.
“There has been a very tight lock on all the information and all the progress,” said Franz. “So, when our membership sees it in real life for the first time, there is no misconception.”
But despite the silent negotiations and no insight from higher-ups, Franz is optimistic about the outcome of the strike.
“The hope is what you’re hearing behind me,” said Franz, as drivers on Washington Street honked their horns in solidarity with picketers. “This is in a community that understands its manufacturing base, understands its manufacturing history, and understands that manufacturing is going to be its future.”
Slotkin was in Lake Orion supporting the UAW workers on Friday.
On Sunday, presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Attorney General Dana Nessel and U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) joined striking workers at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for a solidarity rally.
“I think we are seeing all this attention because this resonates with people,” Slotkin said. “Whether you’re a UAW worker, another unionized worker or have nothing to do with a union, there is something that people can understand and really connect to when they see these companies making record-breaking profits, but not trickling that down to the workers.”
Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and former acting assistant secretary of Defense, took a break from talking about the GM dispute to address current allegations against President Donald Trump.
A whistleblower from inside the national intelligence community lodged a complaint that reportedly states Trump had blocked a shipment of military equipment until Ukraine agreed to release dirt on Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden.
“For me, this feels and smells differently,” said Slotkin. “It’s one thing for candidate Trump to do it, and it’s another thing for President Trump to do it.”
Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, is expected to release the whistleblower report on Thursday. Slotkin says if he fails to do so, “Congress should exercise its full authority on those issues.”