HUDSON -- Nearly three weeks since the strike started, Hudson GM workers and United Auto Workers members continue to man the picket line at 2200 Willis Miller Drive, one of many nationwide.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and state Sen. Patty Schachtner visited them on Thursday afternoon to hear concerns and lend support.
UAW Union Committee member Steve Frisque said the strike had been building up for a while before its official start on Sept. 16. One of the union's main issues is the treatment of temporary employees, who earn a little over half of what full-time employees do, Frisque said, though they are working full time. The temporary employees have few benefits and only three vacation days, he said.
“These poor people are living on pins and needles,” Frisque said.
They have no path to full-time jobs, Frisque said, and can work under the temporary status for years.
“We’re tired of seeing them used the way they are,” he said.
Frisque said union members also are upset about the company moving jobs to China and Mexico.
When the federal government bailed GM out in 2008, workers also helped out, giving up wages and benefits. The idea, Frisque said, was that they’d get that back when GM was stable again.
Health care coverage is also an issue, Frisque said. Workers have been asked to start paying more of it, he said, when legacy workers are making 20% less than what they did in 2000.
With the company seeing record profits for the last four years and a CEO with a salary of $22 million, Frisque said it’s hard for workers to swallow that they should be the ones to make sacrifices.
The picket lines are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 74 striking employees here in Hudson are part of 48,000 nationwide. They are required to be on the line, taking shifts, to receive their strike pay -- $250 a week. They are now 18 days in, and while Frisque said it’s getting tough, they believe in what they’re doing and willing to stay out here until a fair agreement is reached.
“We’re digging in and we’re here for the long haul,” Frisque said.
In a Sept. 16 statement, its most recent press release on its website on the issue, GM said negotiations have resumed.
“Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business," the release stated.
Schachtner said she has always been a union supporter and wanted to show support everyone there that day. She has early memories of striking with her parents and the farmers union in the 1960s. She added it seems said that workers have to strike for wages in the 21st century.
“I think we all have learned we need to advocate for ourselves, and this is the best way to do it,” she said.
To address a worker shortage, Schachtner said the country will have to look to employees, and their pay and benefits. “You have to be good to your employees,” she said.
The lieutenant governor said it is important to honor the plight of working people in Wisconsin and across the nation.
“What’s going on is an injustice, it’s an economic injustice,” he said.
He said he hopes the company will come to the table and listen to its employees. “These aren’t outrageous demands,” he said. “They’ve earned it. There’s no profit without labor.”
Nobody wants to go on strike, he said, especially as temperatures start to dip down.
“This is done out of absolute necessity,” Barnes said, “and so we are hoping for a quick and just resolve to this.”