By DAVID A. COOK
A few weeks ago, 49,000 United Auto Workers at General Motors went on strike. Picket lines formed outside of GM locations around the country.
One of them is here in our own backyard, in Wentzville, where our brothers and sisters at UAW Local 2250 stand picket as they fight the good fight.
When Local 655 partners struck in 2003, the support of the public was critical. Our brothers and sisters in Labor around St. Louis and the entire state stood with us during that challenging time.
In a retail strike, that kind of support is crucial. Retail strikes like ours in 2003 are different than the kind UAW is engaged in right now. At a plant or manufacturing facility, you need to keep the workers out in order to have a successful job action. In retail, you need to get customers to stay out.
Anyone who stood on a picket line can tell you that neither of these things is easy.
Picket lines are hard to maintain. There are logistical challenges that sometimes require scheduling solutions. There are practical challenges, like making sure rain won’t send the picketers scattering or making sure they are equipped to deal with extreme heat or cold.
There are basic challenges, like making sure the men and women who aren’t working as they exercise their right to strike have food and water to sustain them, and making sure their families can continue to function.
That last challenge is often the hardest. A long strike means that families might have to make tough decisions about their budget, and sometimes a company believes that it can wait out a strike by waiting for their own workers to feel the squeeze.
LABOR SUPPORT IS IMPERATIVE
This is why the support of the Labor Movement around you is so important during these job actions. Right now, our UAW brothers and sisters are likely feeling the squeeze. It’ll be a few weeks since they’ve had a real paycheck, and their healthcare benefits, initially suspended as retribution by GM, have been re-instated. They are out on a limb, fighting tooth-and-nail to protect their healthcare and secure the wages they deserve.
Last week there was a rally in support of UAW workers, and plenty of St. Louis Labor leaders have expressed their support. (See UAW/GM strike: ‘The eyes of the nation are waiting to see how this fight goes’)
Now I want to call on you, my partners, to help the UAW strikers in their time of need. Over the coming days, and even weeks if necessary, we will be collecting supplies to take to UAW workers. Non-perishable food items are obviously important, but there’s more than that.
Without a real paycheck while you’re on strike, it’s easy to find yourself without the basics that you need and no way to get them. Toothpaste, diapers, laundry detergent, and other household items are in demand as well.
I’m asking the Local 655 partners to step up and help me bring supplies to the UAW picket line. All you have to do is drop off your donation at our Union Hall any time during our business hours and we’ll make sure to deliver them to the hard-working men and women at the UAW who need our support.
Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted the support and love we have in our Union family. It’s easy to think of the camaraderie and the charity and the kindness as something that everyone has, but it’s not. Where else but in the Labor Movement do we see workers stand together and support each other?
Where else can men and women building cars in a factory count on the support and friendship of grocery store workers they might never have met?