Workers walked in circles Tuesday in front of the Arlington GM plant’s gates with their “UAW on strike” signs covered by plastic to protect them from the rain.
Cars drove by honking their horns in support, as the Arlington plant became the latest addition to the UAW “stand up strike,” joining nearly 50,000 workers across the country.
Mario Ervin has been working at the GM Arlington plant for five years. He said he’s feeling a mix of emotions — especially since he doesn’t know how long this will go on. Ervin wants a fair contract, but being on strike means no paycheck until a contract is reached. He will be living off a $500 weekly union fund.
“I’m just hoping that we get some resolution, and we get a fair contract,” he said.
Ervin walked out with more than 5,000 workers at the GM assembly plant in Arlington, six weeks after the United Auto Workers started its “stand up strike” Sept. 15.
United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain called the Arlington plant “GM’s money maker,” in a previous Facebook Live. The plant builds the company’s full-size SUVS, including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade.
The union has been negotiating for higher wages, cost-of-living increases and the elimination of a “tier” wage system. Last week, GM proposed a new offer, including a 23% wage increase over four years. The union wants a 36% increase.
So far, the strikes have resulted in a $9.3 billion hit to the auto industry as of Oct. 23, according to the Michigan-based Anderson Economic Group.
Ashish Sedai, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the local GM plant going on strike will have a huge impact on the local economy.
“I think it could be upwards of $100 million in the next two weeks and somewhere around $200 million to $300 million, if it continues for over a month,” he said.
With 5,000 workers earning $500 a week during the strike, Sedai said, that doesn’t add up to even a third of what their wages would be if they were working.
“The economic impact is going to come directly from the workers and indirectly through so many ancillary units that cater to the Arlington plant,” he said. “The people delivering parts to the plant and the restaurants in the area. There are a lot of people who don’t work for GM that will be affected.”
Experts like Sedai said the Arlington plant, which produces full-size SUVs, is considered GM’s most profitable plant. In March, the company said the plant set a record for the most vehicles produced in a month.
That made it a very important strike target, he said.
Bunratha Em, owner of Jimmy’s Big Burgers across the street from the plant, said his business was hit by the strike. Usually, when the restaurant opens at 11 a.m., he gets a wave of orders from GM employees, who get a 30-minute lunch break. When he saw the picket signs across the street, he knew it was going to cause a drop in business.
“Today killed us,” he said.
GM executives issued a statement expressing disappointment by the escalation of the strike. In its quarterly earnings report Tuesday, the company reported $44.1 billion in revenue, a 5.4% increase compared with last year. However, its profits dipped by 7%, to $3.1 billion.
Fain announced last week that he would no longer be waiting to expand the strike on Fridays, after he noted the “big three” automakers — Ford, Stellantis and GM — were slow to make progress on negotiations. Fain announced a strike at a Stellantis plant Oct. 23.
Tony Lomelin, a certified forklift operator who has worked at the GM Arlington plant for 28 years, said he wants a fair share of what goes on at the plant. He said he has been working six-day work weeks for years.
“It gets overwhelming,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of time with your kids.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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