Warren joins UAW picket as strike enters second week

Sunday, September 22, 2019 - 3:46pm

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., marches with United Auto Workers picketers at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Plant Sunday afternoon.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., marches with United Auto Workers picketers at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Plant Sunday afternoon. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Alex Harring

Hundreds of United Auto Workers picketers were met by presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Plant Sunday afternoon. Warren marched with workers at the plant who are striking because of contract negotiations. GM has announced the plant is expected to close in January 2020.

“GM made billions of dollars in profits last year and closed five plants around the county,” Warren said at a press conference after picketing. “GM is demonstrating that it has no loyalty to the workers of America or to the people of America. Their only loyalty is to their own bottom line.”

The decision to strike was made by UAW leaders last week after a 2015 collective bargaining agreement expired. Nearly 50,000 UAW members across the country are striking until the UAW and GM agree on a contract that preserves fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing and job security for temporary and permanent workers.

UAW’s strike is expected to cost GM $50 million per day. The union last went on strike in 2007, though it ended after two days when the parties reached an agreement.

Ahead of her visit, Warren met with state politicians, including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and UAW leaders at Legends Coney Island in Detroit to hear about workers’ experiences first hand. Warren said she has advocated for union rights while in the Senate and would continue to if elected president.

“The workers of the UAW are here to say ‘no more,’” Warren said. “They want a fair wage. They want benefits. They want what it takes to be part of America’s middle class.”

Warren, who was named the leading Democratic candidate in Iowa in a recent poll from the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, refused to speculate about polls at this point in the race when speaking with the press. Other presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, have also made or intend to make visits to the Detroit picketers.

Warren was joined on Sunday by State Rep. Andy Levin, (D--Sterling Heights) and Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood. Levin said Warren is “his” presidential candidate.

“We will not have a middle class in this country unless these workers get a fair contract,” Levin said. “We’re so proud to have Senator Warren out here supporting the workers of the UAW.”

Members of the University of Michigan chapter of Students For Warren attended the picket. Public Policy junior Camille Mancuso attended the event and told The Daily it’s important for candidates to use their platform to promote this cause and as speak with the people impacted first hand. She, along with other Students For Warren members, said Warren’s attendance increased their support for her as a presidential candidate.

“You can talk a lot about having solidarity and showing up for workers, but it’s really great to see someone actually showing up for workers,” Mancuso said. “It’s really important that presidential candidates not only promote this on a national stage or a debate stage, but also come here and do the work and show up for the people working and the people striking.”

Similarly, LSA junior Jordyn Houle, also a member of Students for Warren, emphasized the importance of students supporting union workers, even if they are not in one. Houle said she appreciated Warren consulting UAW members.

“A lot of students at U-M — including myself — really come from a place of privilege where it can be kind of a bubble sometimes and feel insulated,” Houle said. “For example, even though I’m personally not in a union myself, I can show support for people in a union because I understand how much union workers have benefitted me and how much the policies they have pushed for and the labor movement has pushed for have benefitted me and benefited all of us.”

Warren, whose campaign staff voted to unionize in June, emphasized the value of unions and the work they do. She also reaffirmed their role in widening and sustaining the middle class.

“When unions win, all American workers win,” Warren said. “Let’s be clear: unions built America’s middle class and unions will rebuild America’s middle class.”