The GM Strike and the Future of American Manufacturing

After more than a month on the picket lines, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) at General Motors (GM) returned to work this week having ratified a contract that means better and more equitable wages, secure health care benefits, and that their “temporary” co-workers have a path to permanent jobs.

October 28, 2019

Striking UAW Workers

Under the contract, the company reduced the number of plants it had slated to close, and committed to $6 billion in specific domestic manufacturing investments—including the assembly of new electric vehicles and technology in U.S. plants. The strikers didn’t win every battle, but they came away with a contract that makes bread and butter gains for tens of thousands of workers.

But this strike was about more than just this contract—it was about the future of American manufacturing and jobs. With this strike, the GM workers made it clear that our nation is reaching a breaking point. American workers cannot stand by and watch the jobs making the technology of the future lost, worsened, or shipped overseas. For too long, announcements about investments in emerging technology “worldwide” have meant plant closures at home, and American innovation has gone hand in hand with offshoring, outsourcing, and gains not shared by working people.

Now, UAW members have demonstrated the critical importance of workers standing together to ensure that the United States leads in the clean economy of the future and that American manufacturing once again provides high-quality good-paying jobs. The heart of this strike extends far beyond cars, trucks, and SUVs. The striking workers stood up for a better future for all working people.

This is why in our platform Solidarity for Climate Action, the BlueGreen Alliance and all of our labor and environmental partners call for expanding workers rights and increasing union density. Union representation is one of the most important factors in ensuring both that the innovative technologies and solutions developed to fight climate change and build a more sustainable future are produced right here in the United States and that the jobs created making those technologies present the path out of poverty and economic insecurity that so many families and communities need. We cannot grow our middle class and rebuild prosperity in our nation if we fall behind the rest of the world in building the technologies of the future or if working people don’t see the gains from American innovation and change.

With their action, autoworkers joined workers across the spectrum—from teachers to hotel workers to workers in the manufacturing sector—who aren’t sitting on the sidelines. They’re acting now to address the urgent economic and climate challenges we face. We stand with them and we urge our elected leaders to do likewise.

Congress has the opportunity to stand with American workers and enact policies that would spur the manufacturing of electric vehicles and other clean energy technologies in America, and measures like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act that would strengthen workers’ ability to organize, bargain, and have an effective voice in the workplace. Working together we can lead in the clean economy and create good, family-sustaining jobs across the United States.