UAW workers not ready to give up as strike nears one month mark

By: - October 14, 2019 2:38 pm

UAW worker Mark Race dressed as Uncle Sam at GM headquarters, Oct. 14, 2019 | Ken Coleman

Mark Race, a UAW Local 14 worker donning a bright Uncle Sam outfit, struck a determined stance during the early minutes of his seven-hour picketing shift of General Motors on Monday.  

UAW worker Mark Race dressed as Uncle Sam at GM headquarters, Oct. 14, 2019 | Ken Coleman

“They’re [GM management] are trying to divide us,” said Race, who traveled 60 miles north from Toledo for the shift. “We’re together and fighting.” 

If you were traveling on East Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit on Monday, you couldn’t miss him outside of the General Motors’ world headquarters located at Renaissance Center. 

About 25 members of UAW Local 14 rallied, marched and earned supportive automobile horn honks from dozens of motorists on a chilly and overcast 45-degree morning. 

Mike Holmes, sporting a skull cat and thick winter gloves, told the Advance that their effort has been dubbed “Monday with Mary,” a reference to Mary Barra, GM’s CEO who earns $22 million a year. Holmes said it his savings should keep him in good financial shape into November but he’s concerned that some of his union brothers and sisters may not be able to go as long with additional income.

UAW Local 14 striking workers from Toledo demonstrate at GM headquarters, Oct. 14, 2019 | Ken Coleman

It’s day 29 of the strike, the first major GM work stoppage since 2007. 

On Sept. 16, more than 40,000 UAW members went on strike. They’re seeking pay increases; more job security for temporary workers; a larger share of profits; and improved healthcare benefits.

The union and management have made some progress over the weekend, the Detroit Free Press reports, but have yet to reach a deal.

Analysts at the East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group (AEG) say the strike has had the following impact through Sunday:

  • $1.13 billion in lost profits for GM
  • Direct wage losses for all employees in excess of $624 million
  • $250 million in lost federal income and payroll tax revenue
  • $13.8 million in lost Michigan income tax revenue

“The impact of the UAW strike has grown week after week,” said Brian Peterson, AEG director of public policy and economic analysis. “What started as a nationwide strike of 46,000 UAW GM workers is now affecting the entire automotive supply chain from upstream component manufacturers to consumers.” 

He added that there will be increased impacts on auto dealers this week, as vehicle and parts inventories become squeezed. And he noted that the $624 million in lost wages for UAW GM workers and parts supplier workers will continue to grow.

Race, Holmes and their colleagues have been earning $250 per week during the dispute. The UAW announced over the weekend that weekly strike salary will be increased to $275 per week. Members can take on part-time jobs without reducing their strike pay – as long as they perform their picket duty.

“UAW members and their families are sacrificing for all of us,” said Gary Jones, UAW president said in a statement. “We are all standing together for our future. This action reflects the UAW commitment and solidarity to all of our members and their families who are taking a courageous stand together to protect our middle-class way of life.”

Simon Dandu, an electrician at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, said on Monday the boost in strike pay has helped to inspire his colleagues.

“We think morale is up and too late in the game to give up,” said Dandu, a 19-year plant veteran. “You know, we got support from community, they bring us food, water, whatever we need. And yeah, so it was very encouraging.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.