The news that the union's negotiators had reached a preliminary deal with GM after more than a month of meetings in Detroit was met with a sense of cautious optimism here by workers who have endured many challenges as the struggle dragged on. They missed wages and kept temperatures down, waiting for some signs of a discount.
The deal is not yet final and its details are scarce. Workers will be able to vote for him, but not until 1
75 or about six union leaders from GM establishments across the country meet Thursday in Detroit to approve him first.
So, at least until then, the strike continues.
With more than 1 million days lost, the strike is one of the largest in the last 25 years, part of an influx of activity observed by both unions and other working groups from fast food to technology companies are becoming more energetic than any other time in recent memory.
"We almost forgot what kind of strike this country was," says Harley Shaken, a labor expert at UC Berkeley. "Yet, over the last few years, we have seen an upsurge in strikes and work – in fact a reaction to the insecurity and vulnerability that so many workers are experiencing. I think this UAW and GM strike is really based on that. "
The strike has conquered the world of politics, with picket lines serving as a stage – and a debate – for leading candidates in the democratic race in 2020.
But signs of the economic benefits of the strike have been rising in recent weeks. The layoffs in the car manufacturing zones stretched from the Midwest to Canada and Mexico, raising concerns that the strike could direct vulnerable areas to localized recessions.
These concerns are expressed in Michigan, home to about 20,000 striking GM workers and cities with disabilities like Flint, where many companies and families rely on car manufacturing.
The Anderson Economic Group, a consulting firm based in East Lansing, estimates that 75,000 workers have been laid off or reduced their hours because of the strike, about half of those in Michigan. Group analysts estimate that the losses were accumulated for GM workers who lost $ 835 million in wages and the federal government, which lost $ 313 million in revenue and payroll taxes.
Michigan lost $ 18.5 million in tax revenue, according to the State Department of Labor claims to have processed 7,000 unemployment claims for workers in the auto industry between September 15 and October 5 – a significant increase over 400, which is processed for the same period in 2018.
Parts suppliers that have reported redundancies include Adient, Cooper Standard, American Axle & Manufacturing, Magna, ZF North America, Busche Performance Group and Android Industries. Only Flint companies like Lear Corp., a maker of seating and electrical parts, Universal Dedicated Transport Services and Genesee Packaging have had redundancies.
In Union halls in Flint, workers who receive $ 250 a week from the UAW in lieu of their salaries are stopped from picking up food boxes donated by United Way on Wednesday.
"I don't waste money. It just hangs. I just stay around the house, "says John Brooks, 67, a GM worker at 51, outside the building of UAW Local 659." You know it's hard, man. The note for the house, the note for the car, the kids at school. I have a small nest on an egg, that's where I dip. ”
The United Way of Genesis District fills 800 boxes of non-perishable foods such as pasta and peanut butter every week since the strike began. It also has a hotline to help workers deal with other financial barriers – such as late mortgage, car or utility payments – which is flooded with late calls, said CEO Jamie Gaskin.
Picket workers across the country have said these difficulties are a small price to pay for a fairer contract with GM, which has enjoyed $ 35 billion in profits over the past three years. But as of Wednesday, it was difficult to determine how many of the UAW's requirements were met or whether both sides were simply looking for a way to resolve the impasse.
Many of the workers who took part in the pickets said they wanted to change the system of remuneration of multi-layer salaries. that GM has stepped up in recent years. It now takes workers about eight years to increase from $ 17 an hour to full pay, which is approximately $ 28 an hour. And the growing use of temporary company workers is another point of contention. These workers make up about seven percent of the company's workforce and often do the same work for reduced pay, less benefits, and less job security.
GM stated that it could not afford to incur higher labor costs, noting the amount of money the cost per worker was already higher than foreign automakers whose factories in the United States were not incorporated. He also outlined the health benefits it gives workers – employees currently pay about three to four percent of their health plans, well below the national average.
Joel Lock and John Garcia, electrical engineers with 28 and 22 years of GM experience, respectively, said they would not vote in favor of ratifying a contract that did not include provisions requiring long-term rates to be put in full staff.
Speaking to a reporter as they stood at a burning fire pit outside the Fortress Factory on Wednesday, they said they were surprised by how long the strike lasted. Yet they were used to the dull routine of shuttles between the picket line and their homes.
Garcia said he knew the first thing he would do after the strike was over.
"Get back to work," he said.