APWU Supports UAW Strike for a Fair Contract

November 19, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

On Sept. 15, when nearly 50,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members went on strike against General Motors (GM), many in the union were prepared to spend an extended period of time on the picket line. By the time the members voted to ratify the new four-year contract, the strike had lasted 40 days – the longest auto strike in over 50 years.

Fortunately, they weren’t alone in their fight: other union sisters and brothers, as well as community members, joined pickets, provided meals, and supported the strikers. The people of this country united in a strong response when General Motors cut off the strikers’ health care coverage, pressuring the company to resume it. Some of that support came from APWU members who joined workers on picket lines in their area.

“The community is stepping up, coming out here, and recognizing the issues that we have are important. Not just us, but their movement...,” said UAW Local 774 President J.R. Baker during the strike.

That community support helped workers stay on the line and win important gains in the new contract. Included in the approved agreement are pay raises of 3 percent in the first and third years, with no increases in health care costs for workers. Most significantly, the transition period to become a permanent, full time employee was cut from eight years to four years, and full-time temporary workers are able to become permanent employees after three years of continuous service. While UAW was not able to stop the closures of three GM plants, the company agreed to continue production at the Detroit-Hamtramck facility.

The Greater Cincinnati Area Local Executive Board joined members of the local AFL-CIO Labor Council in holding the line for workers as they left to collect their strike pay. “I had been on a lot of informational pickets before, but never a strike picket line, where the workers had to go to the street to fight for their wages, benefits, and working conditions,” said their APWU Local President Mike Smith. “It was quite an experience.”

“With our fight against privatization, we know one day it could very well be us. So we want to give that solidarity to our brothers and sisters. It doesn’t just have to be a postal union. [We are] all about solidarity, and a firm believer in that an injustice to one is an injustice to all,” said Tiffany Alexander, the Charlotte Area Local Clerk Craft Director. “So we just want to get out there and show them some support.”

“I salute all the APWU members who stood on UAW picket lines and supported fellow union brothers and sisters during this strike,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “In Our Unity, Lies Our Strength!”

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