Workers picket outside Wentzville GM plant as UAW strike begins

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 9:37 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:12 PM CDT
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ST. CHARLES COUNTY (KMOV) - Workers at the Wentzville General Motors plant walked the picket line Friday after United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain announced a walk-off Thursday evening.

The strikes are limited for now to three assembly plants: the GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit, and a Jeep plant run by Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio. Other assembly plants around the U.S. will continue to have union members working without a deal.

Around Wentzville, the workers appeared to have a lot of support.

“They work hard for their money,” said Rena Collins.

The union is asking for around 40% raises, plus better pensions for workers and even a 32-hour work week, with 40 hours of pay.

A GM plant worker, who did not want to be identified, said the union was just trying to get back the concessions it made during contract negotiations in 2018. And he said it’s also to make up for the higher costs caused by inflation.

First Alert 4 met George at Friendship Brewing in town. He points to the $29 million salary that GM’s CEO earns.

“Considering what the executives make, I think it’s well within their reasoning to ask what they’re asking for.”

The owner of Duke’s BBQ, near the GM plant, said there’ll be a ripple effect from the strike and he’s expected to see fewer customers.

Peter Venezia said he’s already heard that one of the plant’s suppliers has already been impacted by the strike.

“This morning we catered for a subcontractor company, Piston, that provides parts for GM. They came to get some food but then they had to lay off all their people on their floor today,” he said.

Don Brown, owner of Don Brown Chevrolet, said the strike would deplete supplies of new vehicles and drive up prices for both used and new vehicles.

“Nobody wins in this,” he said.

The UAW strike is just the latest strike or threat of strike in 2023 to try to achieve higher wages and better working conditions. Currently, 10s of thousands of writers and actors in Hollywood are on strike and 300,000 UPS employees threatened to strike before agreeing to a new contract that guaranteed raises.

Membership in unions has been in decline for years, but Webster University professor Julie Palmer said it doesn’t mean they’re powerless.

“The unions that exist are wielding some significant power, right. And we’ve seen it all summer long and we’re seeing it with the auto industry,” she said.

According to The Detroit News, the Wentzville plant stamps parts for the Fairfax Assembly plant in the Kansas City area. The newspaper is reporting that internal GM documents say supplies may run out and the plant will be forced to close in a matter of days.

At Wentzville Assembly, GM builds the Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup, the GMC Canyon midsize pickup, and the GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express vans. It’s about 40 miles west of St. Louis.