Striking workers at GM parts distribution center explain why they picket
David Hill/PW

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Workers at the GM parts distribution center on the outskirts of Cincinnati here are Standing Up to the ferocious greed of the Big 3 CEOs and their masters in finance capital who have profited at the expense of autoworkers across the nation.

As part of the expanded strike announced by the UAW at noon on Friday, 38 parts distribution sites across 20 states have been added to the week-long strike. Three major plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri, representing key sites for Ford, Stellantis, and GM, respectively, have been on strike since September 14.

These 38 sites represent the entire domestic parts distribution network of both GM and Stellantis. As part of the dynamic Stand Up strike strategy, Ford was exempted from this round of strike announcements in union recognition of progress in negotiations. The Ford Assembly Plant in Wayne Michigan remains on strike.

At the GM Supply Warehouse in West Chester Township, workers were ready when the strike announcement came down from UAW leadership. “We didn’t know it was going to be our turn, but we were prepared anyway,” said Daniel, an Ergonomics and Safety advisor at the West Chester warehouse.

“Last time we should have stayed out longer, held out for more. This time we’re prepared for the long haul,” Daniel told People’s World, referring to the 2019 GM strike which lasted six weeks. Stacks of water bottles and food of all kinds piled under a tent at the picket line on Sunday morning were a testament to the worker’s preparation. “The strike pay is better this time too, which helps.” Daniel said striking workers were receiving $500 per week from the UAW to offset lost wages for the duration of the strike.

Parts distribution is a critical link between manufacturers and retailers. The 38 parts distribution sites on strike this week supply original manufacturer parts to the hugely profitable network of GM and Stellantis service centers across the nation. In the modern just-in-time supply chain, these dealerships and service centers rely on same-day and overnight shipping services from warehouses like the one in West Chester to supply parts for repair and maintenance work.

This is where workers like Daniel come in to track down parts in the warehouse and get them loaded into trucks for shipping. A typical shift at GM Parts Distribution in West Chester starts at 4 a.m., ends at 2 p.m., and includes just two 20-minute breaks and a six-minute break in the morning for coffee. Mandatory overtime can extend the work week to six or even seven days.

David Hill/PW

One worker told People’s World that some days she was so tired that she couldn’t focus to remember the passcode for her time card, a passcode she had had for years. Another worker said that he had totaled his car on the way to work after falling asleep at the wheel during a particularly bad week.

“We have quotas to meet every day. Our supervisors are always tracking the numbers. They really run new folks hard. It’s non-stop work from the moment your shift starts.” Workers on the evening shift frequently work mandatory overtime – anything to get the parts out to the dealerships on time.

All that came to a screeching halt on Friday at noon. With no parts arriving at the dealerships, and no profits to be made at the service centers, UAW leadership is anticipating that dealership owners will ramp up pressure on Big 3 leadership to make a deal with the UAW, and quickly.

UAW Local 674 President Janet Billingsley has spent 47 years with the company, working at three different locations. She started as a tool and die maker before working her way up into union leadership. On the top of her mind were the many families who had been broken up by changes at the warehouse over the years.

“I’ve seen families split up, divorces, people separated from their children just to keep their service time with GM.” She recalled the story of a woman with 20 years of service who was being relocated from West Chester to a warehouse in Michigan. The woman offered to take entry level pay in order to stay in West Chester with her family. The company denied her request.

“We still have folks up in Michigan who would like to come back here,” said Billingsley. “Different rates of pay, temp status, threats of relocation. The company uses these tactics to sew division and confusion among the workers.”

Rick, a longtime GM employee, had history on his mind. Recalling the 1937 Sit Down Strike, he added, “The eight-hour day, the weekend, people had to fight for that. People died to build this union. We’re not going to let them down.”

Spirits were high among the workers on the picket line in West Chester. A steady stream of passing cars honked horns or waved from the window in support of the striking workers. “We brought some bread so I thought we should bring some roses too!” said Jason Perlman, political director of the Ohio AFL-CIO, as he handed a bouquet of flowers to Billingsley. A contingent from the AFl-CIO that included Perlman and Secretary-Treasurers Melissa Cooper and Brian Griffin had stopped by to deliver food and show their support.

Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas also stopped by to show his support. “We bailed out the auto industry in 2009. Now that they’ve recovered, the executives are getting a 40% raise and what are they giving the workers? A hard time.”

First-term State Rep. Danit Isaacsohn, who represents parts of Cincinnati, was on the picket line and told People’s World, “We’ve made a ton of progress in recent years. We need to make sure workers are getting their fair share of the progress they’ve brought about”

UAW workers aren’t waiting any longer for their fair share, they are demanding it. Strike captain Daniel was direct: “Workers at other auto companies that aren’t unionized, they’re watching what we’re doing. Workers at Kroger are out there trying to build their union. We’re fighting for them too. We’re doing this for everybody.”


We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


David Hill
David Hill

David Hill is a member of the Mike Gold Writer’s Collective. He follows labor, LGBTQ rights, policing, and other issues. He is a member of the National Writers Union and Freelance Solidarity Project.