BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) – Workers on the picket line at General Motors’ Corvette Assembly Plant said Monday that they’re prepared to live off $250 a week in union strike pay “as a long as needed,” as line worker Jeffery Myles put it.
Common concerns include the GM’s reliance on temporary workers, who lack vacation and other basic benefits, and parity between newer hires who start at $17 an hour and longer-tenured workers who earn about $30.
“They’ve been surviving off the backs of the temporary workers for years now,” said Myles, 32, who started in 2013 and endured 18 months of uncertain “temp” status before attaining permanent employment.
More than 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers went on strike Monday against GM, bringing more than 50 factories and parts warehouses to a standstill in the union's first walkout against the No. 1 U.S. automaker since 2007.
For now it’s business as usual Ford Motor Co. – including its two assembly plants in Louisville – and at Fiat Chrysler. The UAW chose GM as its target company among the Detroit 3 automakers, and the results of the GM talks will serve as a template at Ford and Chrysler.
Negotiations between the UAW and GM resumed Monday in Detroit after breaking off during the weekend. While a letter dated Sunday from the union’s top negotiator suggests that the company and union are not that far apart, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Monday that the two sides have come to terms on only 2% of the contract. “We’ve got 98% to go,” he said.
In Bowling Green, Ky., about three dozen workers manned three picket locations near gates to the Corvette plant. They encouraged truckers making deliveries and others approaching the plant not to do business there in honor of the strike.
The plant employs about 900 hourly workers will soon go up to about 1,200 with the addition of a shift to build the next generation Corvette, said Jason Watson, bargaining chairman for UAW Local 2164 in Bowling Green.
The talks in Detroit are unfolding amid an expanding federal corruption investigation into UAW and auto company officials.
Federal officials last month raided the Detroit-area home of Gary Jones, the president of the UAW. Jones has not been charged.
Vance Pearson, head of a UAW regional office based near St. Louis, was charged Thursday with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It’s the same region that Jones led before taking the union's top office last year.
talking to GM workers at picket line in Bowling Green and ran into Shawn MacIntyre, a worker at Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. He rode his Harley down on his day off to show solidarity. (Ford is not on strike). cc @GLCLCky @UAW862 pic.twitter.com/wnfzUWFCpz— Chris Otts (@christopherotts) September 16, 2019
Heather Lewis, 36, an assembly worker at the Corvette plant, said “of course” she is worried that the criminal investigation may affect what UAW leaders are able to secure in contract talks with GM.
“I believe it could be fixed; you’re just going to have to get rid of the bad apples,” she said. “They’ve got to come out. They’re not worthy of the people they’re representing.”
Lewis said she is keeping an open mind about union leaders and looking ultimately to the GM deal they present to members.
“This contract will reveal who they are and what they are about,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.