Sen. Bernie Sanders joined a United Auto Workers rally in Detroit on Friday, as the union gathered on the first day of its unprecedented strike against all the Big Three and renewed a call for solidarity.
The targeted strike began early Friday at a General Motors GM,
plant in Missouri, an STLA of Stellantis NV,
factory in Ohio and part of a Ford Motor F,
plant in Michigan, the first time the UAW has attacked all three automakers simultaneously. The union says it may target more factories as contract negotiations continue.
UAW President Shawn Fain, who took the stage and told the crowd, “This is what happens when corporations don’t take care of the people,” introduced the longtime senator as one of the labor movement’s strongest allies.
Sanders, wearing a red jacket that matched the red shirts of union members, thanked the crowd for “standing up not just for your own members, but for the working class of this country.” His comments reflected Fain’s frequent talking points when the union president addresses members: that workers are asking for their fair share of companies’ profits.
“Let’s be clear that what the UAW is fighting for is not radical,” the Vermont senator said, citing the automakers’ combined profits of $21 billion in the past six months. “In other words, they’re doing quite well.”
The union is calling for wage increases, an end to a tiered workforce, the return of pensions and cost-of-living adjustments, a 32-hour work week and more.
Sanders called on “every American to stand with the UAW” and said that “the CEOs and shareholders on Wall Street need to understand that they can’t have it all.”
The atmosphere at the meeting, which the senator’s office streamed live, seemed festive. But the fallout from the strike was swift: Ford confirmed Friday that it has laid off about 600 workers at a plant in Wayne, Michigan, where union workers are on strike.
“These layoffs are a result of the strike at Michigan Assembly Plant’s final assembly and painting departments because the components built by these 600 employees use materials that require e-coating for protection,” a Ford spokesperson said Friday. “The E-coating has been completed in the paint department, which is on strike.”
In addition, GM said late Friday that the strike at its Wentzville, Missouri, assembly plant will cause a parts shortage at another plant in Kansas, which could lead to the closure of the Kansas plant.
A GM spokesperson said that because of the strike’s “impact” on Wentzville operations, “we expect parts for Fairfax to run out early next week. The parts situation is fluid and we are actively managing the situation.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist also spoke briefly at the meeting at the UAW-Ford Joint Trusts Center, telling union members they stood with them.
To see: UAW strike: Ford, GM and Stellantis’ record profits not fairly distributed among workers, says Biden
Also: Why United Auto Workers Are Fighting to End a Two-Tier Wage and Benefit System
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Claudia Assis contributed to this report.