U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.t.), a Democratic presidential candidate, came to General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant with a message of support for striking United Auto Workers (UAW) members.
“I’m here today to thank you for having the courage to stand up to corporate greed,” Sanders said. “All over this country, working people are sick and tired of working two or three jobs, of seeing their health care benefits go down, seeing their wages go down and seeing the CEOs get huge compensation packages.”
Tens of thousands of GM employees started striking 10 days ago when their contracts expired Sept. 16. They are seeking higher wages reflective of the company’s growing profits and a path to permanent jobs for temporary employees.
“What we are saying today to General Motors is start investing in your workers, stop cutting health care, stop threatening pensions, pay your workers a decent wage, stop shutting down plants in America and moving abroad,” Sanders said. “Today, I say to General Motors: Sit down with the UAW, negotiate a contract that is fair for the working people of this company.”
Shortly after the strike began, GM announced that they would cut off striking workers’ health insurance, something that AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told the Advance that “shocked” workers, but “energized and emboldened them” for the fight. The UAW is paying COBRA costs out for its strike fund.
Sanders said he was “appalled” by the move.
“I am particularly appalled by the cuts GM has brought forth in the health care that you get. They think they’re going to force you into submission,” Sanders said. “Working people of this country want justice. Working people of this country are not looking sympathetically today to General Motors, I’ll tell you that.”
Sanders noted the $51 billion bailout GM received during the Great Recession and said that the federal government should not do business with the automaker if they don’t address the UAW’s complaints.
“If General Motors thinks that after they treat their workers like crap they’re going to go to Washington and get huge federal contracts, they’ve got another guess coming,” Sanders said.
Michigan – home of both the Motor City and the Vehicle City, and a key swing state – has been a popular stop for presidential candidates during the strike.
Sanders said that the strike is setting an example nationwide.
“All over this country, working people are looking at you, at what you’re doing,” Sanders said. “They’re looking at your courage; they’re proud of your standing up for justice. Because what is going on here is going on all over America.”