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What the UAW strike means for Shiawassee County and why we must support labor

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

The United Auto Workers (UAW) are currently on strike, aiming for improved working conditions, higher wages, and enhanced future security. The strike started after negotiations between the UAW and major auto manufacturers like Ford, GM and Stellantis reached an impasse.

For years after the 2008 recession and during COVID, the UAW gave up general pay raises and cost-of-living wage increases to help the companies control costs. These concessions continue, all while CEOs and other executives rake in record pay and benefits. General Motors CEO Mary Barra makes $29 million per year.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to United Auto Workers members at a rally in Detroit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. The UAW is conducting a strike against Ford, Stellantis and General Motors. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Among the key demands of the UAW are an increase in hourly wages, better healthcare benefits and provisions for the industry to transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs) without costing jobs. For us here in Shiawassee County, where many of our friends and family are either directly involved in or influenced by the automotive industry, the impacts of this fight will be real and substantial.

The strike has gained attention on both sides of the political aisle, but for different reasons. Democrats have shown outright support, emphasizing the workers’ rights to fair compensation and secure employment. Republicans, while criticizing the push for EVs, have at least acknowledged the broader issue at hand — the well-being of the American worker.

Shiawassee County is inextricably linked to Michigan’s automotive heritage. Many families in our community have ties to these very companies and the union representing them. According to recent reports from news outlets like Reuters, NBC and NPR, the public sentiment leans toward support for the labor action. An Ipsos poll cited that a broad majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support the strike. For Shiawassee County, this is not just news; it’s personal.

Why it’s crucial to support UAW

1. Local economic Stability: A well-compensated, secure labor force brings prosperity and stability to local economies. Shiawassee County directly benefits from the union’s successes.

2. A moral imperative: The strike represents a broader struggle for workers’ rights and fair treatment.

3. Political leverage: The collective power of workers offers a counterbalance to corporate might. The need for such balance has never been more apparent than now, with increasing income inequality and corporate influence in politics.

The Democratic Party, both on a state and national level, has been at the forefront of supporting the UAW. President Biden recently visited Michigan to extend his support for the UAW strike, emphasizing its importance for the working class. Closer to home, the Shiawassee County Democratic Party wholeheartedly stands in solidarity with the UAW and our workers.

President Biden recently visited Michigan to extend his support for the UAW strike, emphasizing its importance for the working class.

How to support the strikers

1. Donate: Contributions to the UAW strike fund can provide striking workers with financial relief.

2. Join picket lines: Make your presence felt on the picket lines. Even a short visit boosts morale and keeps the momentum going.

3. Spread awareness: Share information and updates through your social networks.

4. Talk to representatives: Lobby your local and state representatives to support the UAW in their negotiations.

5. Get Involved: Visit to find more ways to support the cause!

As a community deeply embedded in the success and struggles of the auto industry, we cannot afford to be mere spectators. Let’s take collective action and offer our unequivocal support to the UAW and, by extension, to every worker seeking fair treatment and a better future.

As originally published in the Owosso Argus-Press on October 1st, 2023 (ARTICLE LINK) and the Owosso Independent on October 3rd, 2023 (ARTICLE LINK).

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