If you traveled by the General Motors Powertrain plant in the Town of Tonawanda on Thursday, it looked like another day of United Auto Workers picketing, as bargaining continued in Detroit toward ending the longest strike in nearly a half-century. However, much more was going on.
The auto workers had every gate in the sprawling manufacturing complex covered. There were umbrellas, cases of drinking water, porta potties and many strike signs.
If you looked closely, however, not all the picketers wore shirts saying UAW. There were also SEIU, CWA and IUPAT union shirts on the line. CWA 1133 President Deborah Arnet said it is a labor movement. When her nurses at Catholic Health had problems, Arnet said other unions showed up to help.
"Solidarity, all the way through," she said. "We had some pickets in 2016 when we were in labor negotiations with Catholic Health and, of course, our brothers and sisters from the UAW came and supported us. So as a labor leader, president of our local, it's all about standing together."
Workers said there are big issues, like the temporary workers in the plant, with temporary sometimes stretching on for seven years at much-lower pay, no benefits and only three unpaid days off a year. If there is a national settlement between the UAW and GM, focus would shift to bargaining on local health and safety issues at Powertrain.
Contract talks took a big step toward an agreement Wednesday when committees finished their work and sent it to the top bargainers. The move is a sign that contract talks are getting close to finishing and means that minor issues largely are resolved. Bargainers for both sides will now try to come to terms on wages, use of temporary workers and other contentious issues.