Among the 49,000 General Motors workers striking for better wages and a fairer pay structure are a few dozen United Auto Workers members at a GM parts warehouse in east Aurora, who have been on the picket line there since the strike was called last week.
“We’re all out here doing our duty,” says Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for UAW Local 431. “We’re in support of our leadership; we know that they’re going to do the right thing. GM upper management is doing more damage to their public perception than they would really want.”
Kennedy says that 48 workers from the Denver Parts Distribution Center, located near the intersection of Interstate 70 and the E-470 toll road in Aurora, are on strike. The nationwide walkout, the first to affect GM since a two-day strike by UAW workers in 2007, came after the two sides failed to reach an agreement in negotiations over a new contract that began in July.
The company and the union disagree on a number of issues, including wages, profit-sharing arrangements, the use of temporary workers and more, but have continued to negotiate since the UAW announced that it would strike just before midnight on Sunday, September 15.
A spokesperson for GM did not immediately return a request for comment. The Detroit Free Press reported on September 23 that the work stoppage is likely to last at least another week, since UAW officials are expected to allow members to vote on any agreement reached by negotiators before ending the strike.
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As of this week, striking workers will begin to collect $250 per week in strike pay from the UAW. They've also faced uncertainty about their health coverage after GM, in a move that one labor expert called "very unusual," cut off health-care payments shortly after the strike was called last week.
“GM had canceled everybody’s health care as of last Monday,” Kennedy says. “How it’s supposed to work, COBRA kicks in, the union will pick up the COBRA payments for all of us. But that’s also a work in progress.”
Members of Local 431 have been supported by other Denver-area unions, including other UAW locals, the Teamsters, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and others, who have donated food and picketed with striking workers outside the Aurora facility. Kennedy says the support has been "overwhelming," and stresses that the implications of this fight extend beyond GM workers here and around the country.
“It helps everybody," he says. "The better unions do, the better everybody does. The rising tide lifts all boats.”