First Auto Workers Strike in 12 Years Affects Plants in Nine States

UAW workers on strike in Lordstown, Ohio, where a factory is slated for closure.

UAW workers on strike in Lordstown, Ohio, where a factory is slated for closure. Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | New York considers combining IDs and credit cards with smart chips … Kentucky governor won’t provide details on plane trips … Boston debates ban on protester masks.

The United Auto Workers union went on strike against General Motors over the weekend, marking the auto industry’s first strike in 12 years. The strike is affecting GM plants in nine states, and includes almost 50,000 hourly workers. The union is seeking higher hourly wages and profit sharing plan with employees, who they say were left out once the company recovered from bankruptcy a decade ago. GM has made an initial offer that would include higher pay and profit sharing, as well as a promise to invest in new jobs, especially in places like Detroit and Lordstown, Ohio, where factories are slated for closure. “We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight," said a statement released by GM on the automaker on Sunday. Some workers, including Wiley Turnage, president of UAW Local 22 in Detroit, said that the strike is about more than those factories, though, and that workers have been treated unfairly as GM reaps the rewards from a strong economy. "They are making record profits. I feel as though we should have fair wages. They just need to stand up and do what’s right by us. We're not asking for a whole lot. We just want to be able to take our families on vacation,” Turnage said. UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, the person negotiating with GM on behalf of the union, said that a strike was the last resort when sides couldn’t agree on a new four-year contract. "We clearly understand the hardship that it may cause. We are standing up for fair wages, we are standing up for affordable quality health care, we are standing up for our share of the profits,” Dittes said. Many elected leaders have weighed in on the strike so far. President Trump tweeted that the two sides should, "Get together and make a deal!" Democratic leaders, including presidential candidate Julian Castro, pointed out the disparity between profits and worker wages. "The CEO of GM made nearly $22 million dollars last year—281 times the median GM worker. I stand with the 46,000 UAW members who have moved to strike, fighting for affordable health care and fair wages. GM can afford to do right by them,” he tweeted. Local leaders are supporting negotiations on the ground, including the mayor of Parma, Ohio, where a GM metal plant is based. “We met with UAW last week to ensure everything would go smoothly if they went on strike. We will continue to monitor the negotiations and hope for meaningful dialogue between the parties,” said Mayor Tim DeGeeter. [Detroit News; CNN; USA TODAY; CBS News; FOX Business; FOX 8]

SMART CHIP | New York City leaders are debating whether or not to put “smart chips” into the new design for the city’s municipal IDs, which function similar to a state ID for identification purposes. The smart chip would allow New Yorkers to use the card for other functions, including financial transactions. Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said that the new chip “would empower underserved communities with access to much needed financial services.” The city has proposed partnering with a third-party to add the financial technology to the cards, but security experts have raised concerns about the safety of putting so much personal information in one place. Carlos Menchacha, who chairs the city council’s immigration committee, urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconsider the decision, saying it will put vulnerable communities at risk and expose them to “unwarranted risks” with a card they now depend on. “IDNYC works because New Yorkers trust it. However, the Mayor’s plan to add a smart chip to the card is dangerous and will not only undermine its past success, but also jeopardize its future,” he said.[Brooklyn Daily Eagle; New York Daily News]

PLANE TRIPS | Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has used a government-owned plane nine times for personal trips that took him out of state this year. Representatives from Bevin’s office, however, will not release details of the trips, and would not say if his reelection campaign fund will reimburse the state for the cost of the trips. But the governor said he either paid for the trips himself or a third-party group paid and, therefore, he does not need to provide information on where he traveled. “The real question is: Why does it matter what the purpose (of the trip) is? Did taxpayers pay for it? If they did, then they should know the purpose. If they didn’t pay for it, it’s none of their business,” he said. The Kentucky Democratic Party issued a statement calling on Bevin to be more transparent. “Matt Bevin is taking secretive flights on taxpayer-owned state airplanes to meet with special interests all over the country…[he] owes the public an immediate explanation…[and he] also needs to reimburse taxpayers for every penny he’s spent for his own political use,” the statement reads. [Louisville Courier Journal; Bowling Green Daily News; Forward Kentucky]

MASK BAN | A Boston city councilor and Massachusetts state senator have teamed up to propose bans on masks at protests, following the violent clashes that happened during a “straight pride” parade in the city last month. City councilor Tim McCarthy said that other cities have similar policies. "My personal opinion is that the mask emboldens people to do things that they probably wouldn't do if they didn't have that mask on," McCarthy said. State Sen. Dean Tran, a Republican, said that the footage of the straight pride parade convinced him that the state needs to take action too. "I'm a big supporter of the freedom to assemble, but the freedom to assemble does not guarantee you the right to disguise yourself and inflict harm on others. We are in the process of devising the correct language to file our bill. We want to make sure we will not infringe upon people's rights to assemble and their rights to express themselves," Tran said. As the city council debated, however, councilor Annissa Essaibi-George brought up people who might wear facial coverings, like the niqab, for religious reasons. “As an Arab with Arab sisters, my cultural community, that are Muslim, my father, as you know, is Muslim. I worry about the role of religious exemptions, especially in this,” Essaibi-George said. [Boston Herald; The Heights; WCVB]

RENT HIKES | The California legislature passed a bill limiting rent hikes, in an attempt to calm increasingly expensive housing markets across the state. The measure limits year-over-year rent hikes to 5% plus inflation, up to a maximum of 10% per year. Assemblymember David Chiu, a Democrat, called the bill a “historic opportunity” to protect constituents. “We have a simple choice today. On the one hand, we can stand by while tens of thousands of human beings are forced out onto our streets, or we can stand up (for displaced renters),” Chiu said before the vote. Gov. Gavin Newsom has already said he intends to sign the bill into law. “These anti-gouging … protections will help families afford to keep a roof over their heads, and they will provide California with important new tools to combat our state’s broader housing and affordability crisis,” he said. [The Orange County Register; San Jose Mercury News]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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