As GM Strike Drags On, Parma Workers Remain On Picket Line

Sep 23, 2019

Nearly every driver who passes the 24-hour picket line on Chevrolet Boulevard blares their horn, a sign of solidarity between the community and the striking workers. 

More than 900 General Motors workers in Parma are among the 50,000 UAW members currently on strike across the country. Those workers include long-time Parma employees and recent transfers from GM’s Lordstown plant, which shut down in March. 

Striking workers are also being joined by activists throughout the Greater Cleveland Area and fellow UAW members from various local halls. 

“We’re here to back each other,” said Tony Vacca, a committee member of UAW Local 1250. “It’s our solidarity.”

Vacca works at the Ford engine plant near the GM Parma facility and was joined by a small group of fellow 1250 members. 

Al Tiller, chair of UAW Local 1005 in Parma, says the strike represents more than just a fight between GM and employees. 

“It’s not just and attack on the UAW, it’s an attack on the UAW, our communities and the middle class as a whole,” Tiller said. “So what we’re doing is fighting for everybody. They want to destroy the middle class, we’re not gonna let ‘em. It’s now or never, we’re taking a stance and we’re telling them were not gonna take it anymore.” 

Colon B. James Jr. aka Benji, a United Auto Workers member for 35 years, stands outside of the south gate of the General Motors Metal Fabrication Division with approximately 40 fellow workers currently on strike. Parma, Ohio Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019.
Credit Carter Adams / WKSU

GM has promised to invest $700 million into Ohio operations, including Parma.

The 71-year-old plant, a metal fabrication facility, supports the majority of General Motors North American produced vehicles and can produce up to 100 million parts per year, according to GM. 

Tiller says it’s not enough to make up for recent cuts, or concessions workers made to keep GM alive when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009. 

The sun begins to set in the early afternoon behind the General Motors Metal Fabrication Division in Parma, Ohio Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019.
Credit Carter Adams / WKSU

“The deals their offering, doesn’t even equate to the cuts they’ve made already,” Tiller said. “You know, the concessions we’ve made, we haven’t gotten back.” 

These include cost-cutting measures including the closing of the Lordstown plant and the use of temporary workers who do not have the same employment protections or benefits as permanent employees.

Negotiations have resumed between the UAW and GM, according to a statement released by GM last week. The company stated they hope to come to an agreement that will prove both beneficial to workers and to the business.

A striking member of the UAW Local 1005 in front of the GM factory in Parma on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.
Credit Carter Adams / WKSU

According to workers on the picket line, they plan to be there for as long as it takes for an agreement to be made and demands to be met.

“You gotta know where you come from, and where you’re going,” said Colon b. James Jr., a 35-year member of the UAW, while holding a “UAW on Strike” sign. “And I’m going in the right direction being here.”