Almost 50,000 workers at 31 General Motors factories and 21 other facilities walked off the job just before midnight last night (September 15) when the United Autoworkers, the union representing GM employees, failed to reach an agreement with the automobile conglomerate.

“We have been clear at the table about what GM members have indicated we will accept,” National Bargaining Committee Chair Ted Krumm of UAW Local 652 said in a statement. “We are standing up for what is right. We as local unions will sacrifice to stand up for what we deserve.”

The GM workers are striking for fair wages, affordable healthcare, a share in the company’s balooning profits, and job security. This is the largest strike action in the US since 73,000 GM workers walked off the job twelve years ago. At that time, the automobile manufacturer settled within two days.

GM came close to bankruptcy in the Great Recession of 2008, and UAW Vice President Terry Dittes pointed out that the company owes much of its return to profitability to its employees’ sacrifices. “We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most,” he said in a statement. “Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our Members, their families and the communities where we work and live.”

Negotiations have resumed, and union representatives are meeting with GM management this morning.

“Our members have spoken; we have taken action; and this is a decision we did not make lightly,” Krumm added. “We are committed to a strong contract at GM that recognizes our UAW members, who make some of the greatest products in the world and make GM so profitable.”

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Photo courtesy of the Detroit News