Chris Ailes, UAW Local 2209 member on the picket line

Chris Ailes, far left, a UAW Local 2209 member who transferred to the Fort Wayne Assembly Plant from a GM plant in Muncie 15 years ago, waves Sept. 16 in appreciation to a passing driver who honked loud and long to express support for pickets during their first day on strike at the company’s facility near the intersection of U.S. 24 and Interstate 69.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 2209 were among the hourly employees of General Motors Co. who were preparing for a nationwide on strike at midnight Sept. 15.

The local represents workers at GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly Plant, 12200 Lafayette Center Road, Roanoke, which employs about 4,500 on three shifts making full-size, light-duty double-cab and crew-cab Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

UAW locals across the country met that morning to vote on the matter after the union’s contracts with the Big Three automakers expired Sept. 14, and officials with the international announced that afternoon they had opted to strike at GM plants.

Early this month the union announced it had selected GM as the target for contract talks with the three major automakers based in Detroit, meaning any deal it reached with GM would set the pattern for demands it made of Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The strike announcement called on the Big Three to recognize sacrifices and contributions UAW members have made for the industry’s health and profitability.

“We told UAW GM members that we would stand up for them and their future,” Gary Jones, the union’s president, said in a statement after top UAW officials with the leadership of the union’s locals.

“We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members, their families and the communities where we work and live,” Terry Dittes, UAW vice president, said in the statement.

The UAW planned to strike to secure fair wages, affordable healthcare, job security, profit sharing with workers and a defined path to permanent seniority for temps, he said.

“We have been clear at the table about what GM members have indicated we will accept. We are standing up for what is right. We as local unions will sacrifice to stand up for what we deserve,” Ted Krumm, National Bargaining Committee Chair for UAW Local 652, said in the statement.

“Our members have spoken; we have taken action; and this is a decision we did not make lightly,” he.

“We are committed to a strong contract at GM that recognizes our UAW members, who make some of the greatest products in the world and make GM so profitable.”

GM offered the union more than $7 billion in investments and more than 5,400 jobs, including investments in eight facilities in four states, solutions for unallocated plants in Ohio and Michigan and new vehicle and propulsion programs such as the introduction of electric trucks, it said in a statement.

It also was willing to have one of its facilities become the country’s first union-represented battery cell manufacturing sites as part of the UAW contract, it said.

The company said it made a best-in-class wages and benefits offer, which included a ratification payment of $8,000 per worker, an improved profit sharing formula and wage or lump sum increases in each year of the four-year contract.

The offer would have retained nationally-leading health care benefits and provided new coverage for allergy testing, chiropractic care and autism therapy care, it said.

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight,” the statement said.

“We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.”

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