United Auto Workers (UAW) across the country went on strike against General Motors (GM) Sunday, demanding better wages and job protection. But in Missouri, the strike comes as the state continues to hammer out a deal to expand a GM plant in Wentzville.
The Wentzville plant, west of St. Louis, was included in a massive workforce development bill pushed through the General Assembly in the spring. The bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, is designed to lure a $1 billion expansion of the plant.
The plant employs nearly 4,500 UAW Local 2250 workers at the facility who went on strike late Sunday night.
“What [the strike] means for our members and a lot of Missouri workers is the UAW decided to draw a line in the sand for better wages and benefits for our members,” Glenn Kage, president of the Local 2250, told The Missouri Times. “General Motors is making record profits, and they can’t do so without the hard work of our members who have earned pay increases, earned better benefits, earned for our temporary workers to be converted to permanent workers, earned job protections.”
“General Motors opened a plant in Mexico. … What does that do for Missouri workers, that’s the question,” Kage said.
While the strike is a national decision, between GM’s board of directors and the UAW’s bargaining team, it still has local ramifications, Kage said.
For every auto assembler who is not working, there are five or six other workers in Missouri who are affected by the strike — from local fast food employees who won’t be serving plant workers on their lunch breaks to those employed at tire manufacturers that will stop shipping to the plant during the strike, according to Kage.
Nationally, that number could be even higher.
“That certainly has a regional impact,” Harley Shaiken, a U.C. Berkley professor specializing in labor, told USA TODAY. “If the strike goes on probably past two weeks, it could be damaging.”
In a statement, GM said its goal “remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business.”
The more than 500-acre Wentzville plant produces Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks as well as Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size vans. It reported $339,805,868.45 in state wages in 2018.
The Missouri Department of Economic Development “is hopeful for a quick resolution,” Holly Koofer-Thompson, its communications director, told The Missouri Times.
As for the potential expansion and possible impact the strike could have on it, department officials remained mum because of its status as an “active project.”
“General Motors is a major employer for our state and has a huge impact on many families in Missouri,” Koofer-Thompson said. “The Department remains optimistic about a potential partnership and will provide more details when it’s available.”
“It’s not about the relationship between Wentzville’s assembly management and the assembly’s union leadership,” Kage said. “These are the decisions that are made by the people above us.”
GM could lose up to $100 million per day during the strike, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.