By TIM ROWDEN
Wentzville, MO – More than 500 union members and their supporters gathered at United Auto Workers Local 2250 Hall Sept. 27 for a “Hold the Line” rally for striking General Motors workers.
Nearly 49,000 UAW workers across the country went on strike Sept. 15 after contract talks with GM broke down. GM responded by taking away union members’ health care and hiring scabs to work at its assembly plants in Wentzville and Arlington, Texas.
UAW won an initial victory at the bargaining table on the eleventh day of the strike, when GM agreed to reinstate health care benefits for its striking workers.
The strike is impacting some 4,500 members of Local 2250 who work at the GM Assembly Plant in Wentzville.
“We all hear it on the news, we all read it in the news, ‘They’re getting close.’ That’s what they’re saying,” Local 2250 President Glenn Kage said. “It may go another week. It may go another month. It may go another two months. Regardless of how long it takes, we’re in this fight for the long haul. It’s our time!”
See previous stories:
- UAW/GM strike – Week 2: ‘Because it’s time, we’ll hold the line’
- Labor, community, politicians rally around striking UAW Local 2250 members
- UAW forced to strike GM after auto-maker refuses workers a share of $22.6 billion profits
A decade ago, when GM was facing bankruptcy, a financial bailout from the federal government and sacrifices by union members brought the company back from the brink.
The UAW agreed to allow a multi-tiered wage progression, allowing GM to hire substantial numbers of new workers at roughly half the hourly wage of those already on the payroll and with reduced retirement benefits. GM was also able to bring in temporary workers with even slimmer wage-and-benefit packages and little to no job security. GM repaid $49.6 billion to the U.S. Government but has turned a cold shoulder to the union auto workers who sacrificed to save the auto maker.
GM has made record profits for four of the last five years, but rather than making good on its promises to workers whose concessions helped keep the company afloat, the company has pared its United States workforce, closed several plants and moved more work to Mexico.
“We build the trucks and vans that build this nation. That’s our job and we’re proud of it,” Kage said. “We’re proud to be auto workers. We’ve been doing it for the last four years while General Motors has made over $40 billion in profits. And they come to the negotiating table and they want us to pay more for our healthcare. They come to the table without any kind of language to convert our temporary employees into permanent… They didn’t have language to protect any of the existing plants. They didn’t have language to bring any of the jobs back to the United States.
“Our leadership in Detroit took the ultimate stand,” Kage said. “They drew a line in the sand, and they told General Motors ‘No more! We’re done giving back. It’s our turn! You’re making record profits. CEO Mary Barra is making $22 million a year. It’s our turn!
“The eyes of the nation are waiting to see how this fight goes,” Kage said. “They’re waiting to see if we succeed or fail. There isn’t a person out here who is in this to fail. Not one of us. We’re going to stand in solidarity. We’re going to fight back. We’re going to send a clear message to General Motors that we’re in this fight and we’re not giving up until we get a contract that is fair!”
LABOR AND POLITICAL SUPPORT
Amid the sea of red UAW shirts at the rally, fellow union members from the Electrical Workers (IBEW), Teamsters, Service Employees (SEIU), Communications Workers (CWA), Operating Engineers, Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Machinists, Sheet Metal Workers, Plumbers & Pipefitters, government workers (AFSCME and AFGE), Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) all turned out to show their support. As did members of UNITE HERE, cafeteria workers at the Wentzville Assembly Plant, who are walking the line with their UAW brothers and sisters.
Numerous politicians also turned out, including Missouri State Auditor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nicole Galloway.
“You deserve more, and you deserve better, and your unified solidarity brings power. Never forget that.” Galloway told to the crowd.
Missouri State Senator Scott Sifton (D-Affton), who also spoke at the rally, had some harsh words for his Republican colleagues when he spoke about the General Motors incentive package passed by the State Legislature to encourage GM to expand its operations in Wentzville. The Republicans in the Missouri Senate were split on the issue and needed the help of Democrats to get the package passed.
“For my Republican House and Senate colleagues, we worked with you to get the incentive package done. You needed us. Now, where the hell are you? Where are you?” Sifton exclaimed, drawing raucous cheers and applause from the crowd.
More than 20 Democrat state office holders, legislators, municipal officials and candidates turned out for the rally, but only one Republican –– Wentzville Mayor Nick Guccione. “I’m here to support you,” Guccione said. “My heart is with you.
“The government has helped GM. You all have helped GM get to where they are today and be profitable. So it’s time for them to step up for you guys, the working man. Without you there is no GM and you build a great product…. We’re proud to have GM here, we’re proud to have you here supporting our community.”
FIGHT IS FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS
Missouri State Rep. Doug Beck (Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562), a candidate for the 1st District Senate seat Sifton is leaving next year, hammered home the difference between state Democrats and Republicans.
“‘Right-to-work’… paycheck deception… taking away prevailing wage… taking away minimum wage from the people in St. Louis and Kansas City… lowering unemployment benefits to 12 weeks… misclassification of workers where they can make them contract workers instead of employees and take away all your benefits, your unemployment, all those things… reducing workers’ compensation… and for those suffering from mesothelioma, which is a death sentence, they want you to die before you get your settlement, that meager settlement that you can leave to your family. What do all of these things, all these anti-worker bills have in common? They were introduced by Republicans!” Beck said.
“You may have problems with some Democrats, but I’m here to tell you right now, we’re not out there to gut your union. We’re not out there to take away your right to bargain. We’re not out there to take away your right to organize. We are there for you! We fight for you every day. That’s the truth!”
Driving home the point, Beck quoted Walter Reuther, the legendary UAW leader, who said, “There’s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.’’
“This fight is bigger than you,” Beck said. “This fight is for the middle class and for the direction of our country from here on out. We have to win.”
MAKE SOME NOISE
Lew Moye, 55-year member of the UAW and president emeritus of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists St. Louis Chapter, challenged the crowd to make enough noise to be heard inside the assembly plant, so the managers would call negotiators in Detroit and tell them to make a deal.
“Ten years ago, when General Motors was $39 billion in the red and in bankruptcy hearings, it was the workers that made unprecedented concessions at the negotiating table, and it was the taxpayers’ money and the leadership of President Obama that saved General Motors,” Moye said.
“General Motors has made billions of dollars since then, and they’ve paid the taxpayers back. Now it’s time to pay us back. It’s time to make equal pay for equal work. No more two-tier. It’s time to change the practice of hiring permanent temporary workers. Make them full-time workers now. It’s time to get our annual wage increases. It’s time to do that now!”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you would like to help the UAW strikers, you can drop off donations at any of the five entrances to the GM Wentzville Assembly Plant at 1500 Highway A in Wentzville, or you can mail a check made payable to UAW Local 2250 to UAW Local 2250, 1395 E. Pearce Blvd., Wentzville, Mo. 63385.
You can also drop off diapers, personal hygiene products, and non-perishable food items at the following locations: St. Louis Gateway APWU, 1705 S. Broadway in St. Louis; CWA Local 6300, 2258 Grissom Drive in Maryland Heights; and IBEW Local 1439/1455, 2121 59th St. in St. Louis.
UAW: Stand With Us!
By DARIN GILLEY
Financial Secretary, UAW Local 2250, Wentzville, MO
The United States Census Bureau recently released a report that stated American income inequality is at a 50-year high.
That’s just one reason the UAW is on strike at General Motors.
Fifty years ago GM was the model of American corporations. It was the largest company on the planet with annual revenue of over $152 billion in today’s dollars. Even at the world’s most powerful corporation the CEO-to-Worker pay ratio was around 20-to-1.
Today, GM is not even close to being the largest automaker much less the largest corporation in the world. The company has shrunk its footprint in terms of variety of models made, towns they manufacture in, number of American jobs and many other metrics.
BUT NOT CEO PAY
While many things about GM have gotten smaller, executive pay isn’t one of them.
In 2018, GM CEO Mary Barra took home almost $22 million. All for managing a company that has gotten much smaller than 50 years ago and is in the process of shrinking even more.
The CEO-to-Worker pay ratio at GM is now 295-to-1. While Mary Barra enjoys her Champagne wishes and Caviar dreams, the base pay of production employees at GM has fallen 10 percent since 2010 according to ChiefExecutive.net.
YOU'RE IMPACTED, TOO
Americans of all stripes are experiencing the same “rigged” system in their workplaces. The boss’ check gets bigger while yours gets smaller.
The Merriam-Webster definition of “rigged:” manipulated or controlled by deceptive means.
It’s deceptive when you hire someone as a “temporary” but then work them six days a week for five years with only three unpaid vacation days a year... and yet the company claims they aren’t permanent!
STAND WITH US
The UAW strike of General Motors is about issues like these that are affecting many American workers, both union and non-union.
If your boss keeps taking home more while you bring home less – stand with us.
If your boss uses deceptive tactics or makes false promises to manipulate you – stand with us.
If you believe in a system that recognizes the value of the people that provide the goods or service that makes the profits is better than a “rigged” system – stand with us.