Flint, MI — The United Auto Workers Union (UAW) announced a 38-site expansion of its ongoing strike on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, with two Flint-area General Motors (GM) facilities joining the picketing ranks.
UAW president Shawn Fain announced the strike expansion on Facebook Live ahead of a noon deadline for contract negotiations with Ford, GM and Stellantis, otherwise known as the Big Three automakers.
Fain’s announcement added GM’s Flint Processing Center in Swartz Creek, Mich. and Davison Road Processing Center in Burton, Mich. to the strike ranks.
Workers at the plants join roughly 13,000 Big Three employees already picketing as part of Fain’s “stand-up strike” model, which has seen union members walk out at targeted sites since the union’s contract expired on Thursday, Sept. 14.
At the main entrance to GM’s Flint Processing Center, Lisa, a UAW Local 659 member who asked that Flint Beat not use her last name due to press policies, said she hoped to see a host of the union’s requests come to pass in response to the strike.
“It’s about benefits, wages, pension, cost of living,” she said over honks of support from drivers passing the picket line at the center’s Dye Road entrance.
Four of the UAW’s major demands include a roughly 40% wage increase, reinstating cost of living protections, the end of a two-tier system of wages and benefits, and job security amid the rise of electric vehicles according to reporting by NPR.
“We’re looking at trying to just rebuild, trying to get better wages, so we can afford [the vehicles] we’ve been making,” Lisa, who has been with GM since 1985, explained.
At another entrance to the GM facility, Doug Kaylor told Flint Beat he felt impassioned to join the picket line despite having retired from GM 13 years ago. He said prior to that, he’d worked at 10 of the automaker’s plants across three states.
“This is my brothers and sisters,” he said, gesturing to the rest of the union members and supporters holding UAW signs around him. “The people before me struck to give me what I have. So, you know, I’m just showing my support back to them.”
Kaylor said he’d joined his father on the picket line at GM’s 1970 strike as well, when he was about 14 years old. That strike resulted in a 13% pay raise among other concessions.
“We gained healthcare, retirement,” he said. “It’s time that we stood up. These young guys ain’t got nothing to look forward to unless we win.”
UAW Local 598 President Ryan Buchalski did not respond to Flint Beat’s request for comment on how the ongoing strike will affect union members at GM’s Flint Assembly plant by press time.
The facility, located within Flint’s borders, is the company’s longest-running assembly plant in North America and so far has not been announced as one of the sites targeted for the ongoing strike.
In a statement on Friday, GM called the UAW’s strike escalation “unnecessary” but cited that the automaker “will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”