What the GM strike means for General Motors’ 4,500 workers in Arlington

Striking General Motors workers staged protests Monday outside the company’s Arlington assembly plant, showing unity with colleagues from throughout the nation demanding better pay and other benefits.

Nationwide, about 50,000 United Automobile Workers went on strike at GM, including workers at the Arlington plant, which employs more than 4,500 people, making it one of North Texas’ largest employers.

GM makes its full-size sport-utility vehicles — including the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade — in Arlington.

The plant was shut down early Monday, and its vast parking lots near Texas 360 and East Abram Street remained mostly empty throughout the day. A company official said only essential services inside the structure were being provided.

“The company has made a lot of money the last four years, but the company doesn’t want to share that with the workers,” said Kenny Hines, chairman of Grand Prairie-based UAWorkers Local 276, which represents workers at the Arlington plant.

Hines noted that workers made concessions in their contract with GM to help the company through its bankruptcy, and now they want to share in the good times.

“Each one of our contracts has been nothing but concessions,” he said.

Outside the Arlington plant, dozens of workers took turns protesting at each property entrance. They held signs and chanted slogans such as “Together, united, we’ll never be defeated!”

Company officials maintained that they were making UAW workers a lucrative offer for their next contract.

“We believe that we have presented a strong offer to the UAW. Inside the offer is over $7 billion of investment in new plants and new product programs that also impact 5,400 jobs, new or created,” Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president for global manufacturing, said in a video statement on the company’s website.

GM’s offer includes lump sum pay increases for workers in each of the next four years, continued health care benefits and $8,000 payments upon ratification of the deal, according to information provided by the company.

But GM has drawn fire for its plans, announced nearly a year ago, to close several plants. Among them are facilities in: Lordstown, Ohio, where the Chevrolet Cruze is made; a Detroit plant where the Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac CT6 are made; and a plant in Ontario, Canada, that makes the Chevrolet Impala. Two transmission plants in Baltimore and Warren, Mich. also are scheduled to be closed..

Meanwhile, in Arlington, the company embarked upon a $1.4 billion expansion beginning in 2015. The Arlington plant is considered one of GM’s most profitable locations.

But despite the importance of the Arlington plant to the company’s overall health, Hines said the Texas workers will remain in lock step with striking workers around the nation, and continue the strike until a better deal is negotiated.

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Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.