A strike by nearly 50,000 General Motors (GM) staff across the United States has entered its third week as talks between the company and the United Auto Workers union (UAW) continue.
Workers walked out on 16 September at 31 factories and 21 other facilities.
They are demanding higher pay and the permanent hiring of temporary workers, and a halt to plans to close several US plants.
GM responded to strikes saying that the UAW would need to pay striking workers’ health costs, but in the last week they have backtracked, and reinstated health insurance.
It also confirmed that the US strikes have led to 4,600 temporary layoffs at Canadian GM plants due to supply chain disruption.
Tim McKinnon, a Unifor union rep in Ontario, Canada, said that workers there remain “mostly supportive” of the US strikers.
Strikers have won solidarity from GM workers at the Silao plant in Mexico too. They organised to resist pressure to increase assembly line production to make up for GM’s losses in the US.
Five have been sacked. But the solidarity action was continuing at the start of this week.
Striker Marvin told US socialist group Marx21 last week that the GM bosses’ concessions to end the dispute aren’t good enough.
He said, “The company keeps making low ball offers that are frankly embarrassing.
“They insist on a 2 percent wage growth that doesn’t even keep up with inflation, whereas we used to get at least 3 percent on previous contracts.
“They offered to rehire workers at the Lordstown, Ohio, plant at $17.50 an hour. Those folks used to be paid $24-28 an hour. That’s just insulting.”
The strike comes as GM workers in Korea are staging protests over job security for precarious workers. They have struck several times in recent weeks.
Some have been hospitalised after a hunger strike to demand higher pay and the permanent hire of precarious workers. And they demand that GM Korea honour previous agreements.
Strikers in Korea say that they face similar problems with GM as UAW members in the US.
The GM disputes could unfold on a global scale and the US strikes are part of a larger tide of workers’ struggle.
This month some 80,000 workers are set to walk out at pharmaceutical company Kaiser Permanente over outsourcing and rising prices for patients.
And the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have voted by 94 percent to take action over cuts to education in the city.
The vote comes six months after Democrat Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor of Chicago. The CTU says that Lightfoot is not doing enough to protect education in the state.
CTU president Jesse Sharkey said that the vote is “a clear signal that we need the mayor and the board of education to address critical needs across our schools”.
With the impeachment of Donald Trump and deeper dissatisfaction concerning workers’ rights, strikes are likely to continue taking place.
It is important that workers at GM do not give in to pressure from the company.
They must be ready to vote against any deal that does not fully meet their demands. A victorious strike by UAW workers could set off an even larger wave of workers’ struggle.
Marvin told Marx21 he does not see an end to the strike without a victory.
He said that those who have previously taken part in action against GM are “in it for the long-haul”.
“The younger workers used to take the benefits we get for granted,” he said. “Now they are getting a life lesson on the importance of the union.”
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