Workers at Wentzville, Missouri GM plant explain why they strike
UAW members picket the GM plant in Wentzville, Mo., on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. | David Carson / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

WENTZVILLE, Mo.—People’s World reached Glen Kage, Jr., legislative and political action director of UAW Local 2250 here as he took a break from the picket line Friday at the union’s local office.

“The workers are not thrilled about having to go out on strike,” he said, “but they are ready and determined to stay steady and strong in this fight for respect on the job and fair treatment by the company.”

Workers at the Wentzville plant make the GMC Canyon, the Chevrolet Colorado, and full-sized GM vans.

We also talked with J.T. O’Malley, who has worked at the plant for nine years. J.T. is an operator who has worked in a number of capacities on many of the vehicles made here.

One of the issues he was anxious to discuss was debunking the idea pushed by much of the major media that auto workers are already well-paid and that their wage demands of a 36% hike are unreasonable.

He noted that they labor under a two-tier wage system with many workers barely making what is paid in the fast food industry. The two-tier system was a concession made by workers to keep the companies afloat when they were on the verge of bankruptcy; it was supposed to be temporary. But of course, it became permanent, and now the auto giants are making record profits which are not being shared with the workers.

Only now, after nine long years, has he made it out of the second tier. “It is wrong and demoralizing to workers when people working side by side, doing the same thing, are paid vastly different wages,” he said.

J.T. described his current duties as an operator at the plant. “I put the front grille onto the cars as they pass on the production line. I have only 50-something seconds to put on the grille, hang it, push other parts into place, get a gun, and shoot into the allotted spaces the things that hold it into place.”

Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush showed support for the union on the U.S. House Floor, saying: “Auto workers have built a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars in profits for the Big Three – for Ford, for GM, for Stellantis – in the past decade, including $21 billion in the first six months of 2023, yet workers are currently making 10% less in real wages that they made last year.” | AP

He has to do this over and over and over again for eight hours and has only two breaks, one for 16 minutes and the other for 24 minutes.

There is no lunch during the shift; workers can only eat when they are finished for the day.

Over the nine years with GM, he said, he has had jobs that were even tougher on his body. He described how he had to place airbags in vehicles, a task that involved using tools with his arms over his head during the entire process, again in a very short time.

O’Malley was particularly concerned about the effect of what he called “stagnating wages.” He said it has resulted, in effect, in things going “backwards” for workers and their families.

“My dad was an auto worker,” he said, and “on his wages, we were not wealthy but we never went without. We had good food, a roof over our heads, and sometimes were able to get away on a little vacation. Too many auto workers can’t do that today,” he said. “This is why we strike.”


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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.