FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After negotiations between the United Autoworkers Union and General Motors failed Sunday, third shift workers in Fort Wayne walked off the assembly line in a nationwide strike.
Starting at midnight, the sound of cheers and car horns filled the night air around the Fort Wayne assembly plant. UAW Local 2209 members gathered at the plant exits with signs and shirts expressing their frustration and showing solidarity with workers around the country.
According to the UAW, it and GM were not close enough on issues like health care and what to do about the four factories slated to close next year, in order to make a deal.
General Motors offered to make 7 billion dollars in investments across several of their plants as well as bring new vehicles and products to two plants that are set to close next year. They also said they would add over 5,400 jobs, some of which would go to workers currently at plants slated to shut down, but according to the UAW those offers do not address the quality of life issue that workers face.
“A lot of temporary employees have been here long-term, seniority people haven’t had a raise in several contracts, you know, we just started getting out new raises last contract but we went several years without, and these jobs ain’t getting any easier,” said Rich LeTourneau, the Bargaining Chair for the UAW Local 2209. “People think that the autoworker is overpaid, and under-worked and it’s just the opposite of that. These jobs are brutal. They’re hard, they’re rough on the body, and some of those things have to come into place while you’re collective bargaining.”
This is first strike from the union since 2007. LeTourneau said that there was some nervousness from workers who have not yet had to do this but that the strike comes as no surprise.
“I think everybody’s going to stay strong,” said LeTourneau. “I think everybody’s anticipating this. It’s been talked about for months. It’d be best for everybody if they were settled but if it doesn’t happen then we’re prepared to do what we got to do.”
General Motors issued a statement expressing their disappointment in the development, stating: “We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways, and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight. We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.”
More than 4,000 employees at the Fort Wayne plant are now on strike. Negotiations are scheduled to pick back up Monday at 10 a.m.