Democrats offer support to striking GM workers

Toledo Blade

UAW-GM members entered the third week of a strike with backing from Ohio Democrats, who visited the picket line at General Motor’s Toledo Transmission Plant on Monday to affirm their support for workers during their impasse with the Detroit automaker.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Cleveland), Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D., Akron), and Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz joined workers at GM’s largest Ohio facility, where some 1,600 United Auto Workers members have been on strike since Sept. 16.

“Ten years ago, taxpayers saved this company. It was in bankruptcy, we all know ... workers did a whole bunch of give-backs,” Mr. Brown said. “Then we see a huge tax cut that GM executives got and this company got, and then we see them move more production to Mexico, and workers are just saying, ‘It’s our turn.’”

Mr. Brown said he speaks with GM executives often and “they won’t tell us much. ‘We’re in bargaining, we can’t really talk. We don’t know what we’re going to do at Lordstown.’ It’s frustrating. I always remind GM that the taxpayers and the workers at this company is the reason they’re in business.”

After the automaker announced the closure of their Lordstown assembly line in late 2018, Mr. Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, met with GM CEO Mary Barra to persuade the company to produce another product at the plant to replace the Chevy Cruze, to no avail.

The UAW-GM picket line has been a popular photo op for Democrats, while Republicans have largely steered clear of the walkout. Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke have all made stops at picket lines in Ohio and Michigan.

The support from politicians hasn’t produced a resolution. Both sides resumed negotiations Monday while workers are collecting $250 a week in strike pay from the UAW, and as GM loses millions. The walkout is the longest UAW action against GM since 1970.

Gabrielle Perry, a 26-year-old temp worker, said she’s been “living on a prayer” without her normal paycheck. Temp workers are at the center the contract impasse because they earn less and have less job security than permanent workers.

“It’s discouraging, but I’m trying to stay positive,” the Toledoan said.

“General Motors doesn’t seem to want to cave on this,” said Spencer Moore, 28, a temp worker from Monroe, Mich.

Ms. Sykes, in her first stop at a UAW picket line during the strike, admitted there isn’t much lawmakers can do to persuade either side to reach an agreement.

“We can highlight the issue. We can make sure people are aware of it and know that we support the workers who are out here,” she said.

Democrats offer support to striking GM workers »