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 of the Big Three and reiterated a call for solidarity.
The targeted strike began early Friday at a General Motors
plant in Missouri, a Stellantis NV
plant in Ohio and part of a Ford Motor
plant in Michigan, the first time the UAW has struck at all three automakers simultaneously. The union says it may strike at more plants as contract negotiations continue.
UAW President Shawn Fain, taking the stage and telling the crowd “this is what happens when corporations don’t take care of the people,” introduced the longtime senator as one of labor’s strongest allies.
Sanders, wearing a red jacket that matched union members’ red shirts, thanked the crowd for “standing up not only for your own members, but for the working class of this country.” His comments echoed Fain’s frequent talking points when the union president addresses the membership: that workers are asking for their fair share of the companies’ profit.
“Let’s be clear that what the UAW is fighting for is not radical,” the senator from Vermont said, citing the automakers’ combined $21 billion in profit in the past six months. “In other words, they’re doing pretty good.”
The union is asking for wage increases, an end to a tiered workforce, the return of pensions and cost-of-living adjustments, a 32-hour workweek and more.
Sanders called for “every American to stand with the UAW,” saying “the CEOs and stockholders on Wall Street have to understand they cannot have it all.”
The mood at the rally, which the senator’s office live-streamed, seemed celebratory. But the effects of the strike were swift: Ford confirmed Friday that it has laid off about 600 workers at a Wayne, Mich., plant where union workers are striking.
“This layoff is a consequence of the strike at Michigan Assembly Plant’s final assembly and paint departments, because the components built by these 600 employees use materials that must be e-coated for protection,” a Ford spokesperson said Friday. “E-coating is completed in the paint department, which is on strike.”
In addition, GM said late Friday that the strike at its Wentzville assembly plant in Missouri will cause a parts shortage at another plant in Kansas, which could lead to a shutdown at the Kansas factory.
A GM spokesperson said that due to the strike’s “impact” on Wentzville operations, “we anticipate running out of parts for Fairfax as soon as 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 rally at UAW-Ford Joint Trusts Center, telling union members that they stand with them.
See: UAW strike: Ford, GM, Stellantis record profits haven’t been shared fairly with workers, Biden says
Also: Why United Auto Workers are fighting to end a two-tier system for wages and benefits
Related: Actors, writers, hotel housekeepers and grad-student workers are all striking for the same reason
Claudia Assis contributed to this report.