by Ellen Isaacs
October 13, 2019
Today a group of about 35 UAW members and other unionists took a bus from New York City to join the picket line at the GM parts distribution center in Langhorne, Pa. We spent several hours with the six or so strikers, who were occupying a space filled with chairs, tents, food and a firepit donated by many supporters who have come from local schools and other shops. They were in high spirits and very glad to see us, and we learned a lot about their situation. We also learned that 3000 Mack truck workers struck last night at midnight in nearby Allentown – strke fever may be spreading.
Even though there are only 68 active workers at this facility, they have manned the picket line seven days a week for the last four weeks. They receive only $250 a week from the Union (about to go up to $275), but have remained strong. Like at all GM plants, the workers there are divided into three tiers, but they are all sticking together. The oldest workers get over $30/hour, but they can still be required to work two hours of mandatory overtime each day and five Saturdays a year. The second tier workers start at $18/hour and after eight years can reach a maximum of $25/hour. The “temporary” workers earn only $15 an hour, despite working the same schedule as everyone else, which can only rise to $18 after four years, and they are also often required to work overtime. They get only three days off a year, which must be scheduled in advance! “It’s just like slavery,” one of the workers said. Their local has not allowed GM to have more than four temporary workers employed at one time.
One of the senior workers told us that GM had had 420,000 unionized workers in 1985, now down to 48,000. Some of the strikers have moved several times from city to city in order to keep a GM job, as more and more plants closed. They expressed regret that all the GM workers in Mexico, who earn $1.40-4.50/hour and do not belong to the UAW, have been laid off.
The Pennsylvania workers see the GM strikers as the beacon of the whole labor movement, whose efforts will have far reaching effects. They are willing to hold out as long as they can. One even said they wished they could be part of a general strike, like they do in Europe. On the other hand, they are not prepared to oppose the UAW leadership that has granted all the auto bosses major concessions for the past 40 years, and saved NO jobs. Some strikers raised the wish that all GM cars would be made in the US, but some of us talked about the need for international labor solidarity. When asked if they thought workers could run the plants just as well without the bosses, the strikers gave a resounding YES.
Donations to support strikers can be made at
On behalf of UAW
Local 774 members on strike at the Tonawanda GM plant
United Way of Buffalo & Erie County
742 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14209
Checks made payable to The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, “Labor Fund” in the Memo Attention to Chrissy Cassata, Director of Labor Engagement
Or Donate Online: UWBEC.org (Type Labor Fund in comments section)
On behalf of UAW Local 686 memberson strike at the Lockport GM plant
United Way of Greater Niagara
6420 Inducon Dr. West Suite B2
Sanborn, NY 14132
Checks made payable to The United Way of Greater Niagara, “Emergency Fund” in the Memo
Attention to Bill Jackobi, Director of Labor Engagement
or Donate Online: www.uwgn.org/Donate (Type UAW Support in comments section)
On behalf of UAW Local 1097 members on strike at the Rochester GM Plant
United Way of Greater Rochester
75 College Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
Checks made payable to The United Way of Greater Rochester, “UAW Support” in the Memo
Attention to Rose McKinney, Director of Labor Engagement
or Donate Online: www.uwrochester.org/UAWsupport