Demanding fair wages, decent healthcare benefits, and their share of General Motors' "record-level profits," nearly 50,000 United Auto members went on strike just before midnight Sunday following failed contract negotiations.
"Today, we stand strong and say with one voice, we are standing up for our members and for the fundamental rights of working class people in this nation," said UAW vice president Terry Dittes ahead of the strike, which will grind to a halt dozens of plants across the U.S.
The national walkout, which comes after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired early Sunday, represents the largest auto strike in more than a decade. According to the New York Times, GM and union leadership are "far apart in the talks" as the corporation is pushing for "employees to pay a greater portion of their healthcare costs" even as it rakes in huge profits.
Pointing to sacrifices workers made to help GM survive in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, including giving up cost-of-living pay increases, Dittes said: "We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members, their families, and the communities where we work and live."
49,000 autoworkers across the country, including thousands here in WNY are on strike. We’re outside General Motors in #Tonawanda where the UAW is asking for higher wages, better health care and job security. Tune into #Wakeup for the latest. @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/UAMQbYu3ak
— Gabrielle Mediak (@GabrielleMediak) September 16, 2019
— Phoebe Wall Howard (@phoebesaid) September 16, 2019
"One of our mottos is, 'When we fight we win,' and we will be fighting now," said UAW Local 774 president J.R. Baker. "Nothing will move 'til we get what we want."
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Last November, as Common Dreams reported, GM sparked outrage when it announced plans to close several plants and slash nearly 15,000 jobs after receiving an estimated $514 million from the GOP's tax legislation.
Sunday night, as the strike appeared imminent, 2020 Democratic presidential candidates expressed solidarity with union workers in their fight for decent wages and benefits.
The CEO of @GM made nearly $22 million dollars last year—281 times the median GM worker.
I stand with the 46,000 @UAW members who have moved to strike, fighting for affordable health care and fair wages.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) September 15, 2019
"Auto workers deserve good wages, comprehensive benefits, and economic security," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). "I stand with UAW as they strike to get what they deserve, and urge GM to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who last month unveiled a plan to strengthen worker protections and double union membership, tweeted Sunday that he is "proud to support the UAW workers who are standing up to the greed of GM."
"Our message to GM is a simple one," said Sanders. "End the greed, sit down with the UAW, and work out an agreement that treats your workers with the respect and the dignity they deserve."