By TIM ROWDEN
Wentzville, MO – When United Auto Workers nationwide approved a new contract with General Motors Oct. 25, ending a 40-day strike against the auto maker, members were well aware that the support of their communities and brothers and sisters in Organized Labor made it possible.
Members of UAW Local 2250 hosted an appreciation luncheon recently at their union hall in Wentzville to say ‘thank you.’
“It was because of the support of our community that we were able to hold the line for 40 days and 40 nights,” said Glenn Kage, president of Local 2250.
That includes officials with the City of Wentzville, from Mayor Nick Guccione, who visited the strike line countless times walking picket with the striking UAW members, to the city officials who worked with the union to make sure their strike actions were in line with city ordinances, to fire fighters with the Wentzville Fire Protection District, who delivered water and donations to the strike line, to the Wentzville Police Department who worked with the union to make sure striking members were safe and acting within the law.
“Not that there weren’t a few things once in a while to aggravate them,” Kage said. “But I could always count a call from Capt. (Leon) Burton (Support Services commander) to say ‘Let’s meet and talk this out,’ and we did, and they gave us the leeway that we needed to be able to have a successful strike. And we did the best that we could stick to the guidelines that we laid in the beginning of the strike.
“The fire department was instrumental in making sure that they not only brought water for us, but they brought donations,” Kage said. “And we donated those financial donations to the St. Louis Labor Council’s ‘$5 for the Fight’ fund so they could use those donations to help our members that were struggling financially (who appealed to the Fight Fun for help).”
FIGHTING FOR A FAIR, EQUITABLE CONTRACT
“Nobody ever wins in a strike,” Kage said. “There are no winners. You go into a strike knowing that is the last straw, your last opportunity to try to get a fair and equitable contract.
“General Motors was making near record profits leading up to the strike, and they came to the bargaining table and they offered to let us pay more for our healthcare. They offered two percent pay raises. They had no language for plant expansions. They had no language for conversion of our temporary workers. Our backs were against the wall and we stood up and we said ‘No more.’ We drew a line in the sand. And with the help of the people here we were able to stand firm for 40 days until General Motors brought back a contract that – it’s not great, but it’s better than what they brought before the strike. So our strike was a success. It served the purpose that it was intended to serve. And the only way that we were able to do that was with the help of everybody that’s here today.
“From the police that came by to sit and talk with us to make sure that we knew exactly where we were and how we could work with them to make sure that we had a peaceful picket line, to the Fire Department that let us have the burn pits out on the picket lines to keep warm, to the mayor who was out there walking pickets with us, to the various banks that gave us opportunities to suspend our payments while we were unemployed, to the insurance companies that helped us out… everybody that is here today helped us one way or another.
“We appreciate all that you have done. Thank you for showing your support for our brothers and sisters in the UAW.”
SUPPORT DURING TOUGH TIMES
“It’s always good to have support during the tough times, and we all know that those six weeks during that strike were very, very tough,” said Cleveland Wilson, chair of Local 2250’s Civil and Human Rights Committee. “What makes it so great is that people do things for you without asking, and we just want to thank you to your face for those water bottles and those pizzas and all those great and wonderful donations that helped us over the course of the strike.”
WORKING TOGETHER FOR WORKING FAMILIES
John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County Chapter NAACP and a UAW retiree, extended the NAACP’s continuing commitment to fight for working families.
“I understand how important it is for us to work together as a unit to fight off all the forces that are working against us,” Bowman said. “During our fight over this summer, the NAACP not only supported this strike locally, we endorsed it on the state level and on the national level. It is important for us to continuously work together on behalf of working families, fighting for good wages, fighting for good health care, fighting for respectful treatment in the workplace.
“I stand firmly here with you here today not only as a UAW brother but as the president of St. Louis County NAACP. Whenever you go to the fighting ground, whenever you go to the battleground, whenever you go to war, we will go with you.”