MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A national autoworkers strike is now impacting Memphians, and for the first time, GM’s head of operations in Memphis tells us where they stand.
For nearly two weeks, Pleasant Hill Road has turned into a picket line. “UAW on strike” signs are lifted as UAW members walked off the job at the Memphis GM Distribution Center.
“No one wins in a work stoppage,” said Courtney Hairston, GM’s head of operations at Memphis Customer Care and Aftersales Parts Distribution Center. “Studies show that for every GM worker, it impacts six other jobs. It’s affecting our Memphis community.”
With over 180 jobs at the distribution center, more than 1,080 jobs across our area are affected.
“Negotiations happen every four years so we’ve been preparing just in case there is a work stoppage,” said Hairston.
For now, GM and their employees at a crossroads.
“We were at this point In 2019. I was here right here on this very same line. But it’s 2023, and nothing has changed except for prices, inflation, COVID, death, trauma, and hard work. So if you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you ask for more? Wouldn’t you expect more?” said Jeffery Thomas, president of UAW Local 2406.
The current offer presented by GM on Sept. 21 includes wage increases, inflation protection, time off, and no change to the current healthcare.
“We value what they do every single day. We do hear their concerns about wages and job security,” said Hairston. “I’m sure we’ll get a fair contract soon.”
The workers said they will continue to be out there until they reach an agreement.
The United Auto Workers union expanded strikes against Detroit automakers Ford and GM on Friday, ordering 7,000 more workers to walk off the job in Illinois and Michigan to put more pressure on the companies to improve their offers.
It was the second time the union has widened the walkouts, which started two weeks ago at three assembly plants before the most recent addition of a Ford plant in Chicago and a General Motors factory near Lansing.
Union President Shawn Fain told workers in a video appearance that the strikes were escalated because Ford and GM refused “to make meaningful progress” in contract talks. Jeep maker Stellantis was spared from the third round of strikes.
Ford and GM shot back as a war of words with the union also intensified. General Motors CEO Mary Barra blamed union leaders for the impasse.
“UAW leadership continues to expand the strike while upping the rhetoric and the theatrics. It’s clear that there is no real intent to get to an agreement,” Barra said in a statement.