GM strike forces unpaid workers to skimp on groceries, seek part-time work

Nearly four weeks into the United Auto Workers' strike against General Motors, employees are feelingl the pinch of going without their regular paychecks.

They're scaling back at grocery stores, giving up meals at restaurants and even taking on part-time jobs while trying to get by on weekly strike pay of $250.

"In a couple more weeks, I think everybody's going to be calling the bank or their creditors, going, 'Hey, probably going to be late or delinquent,"' said Mike Armentrout, who works at GM's transmission plant in Toledo.

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The UAW is holding out for new commitments from GM to keep maximum vehicle production in the U.S., according to The Detroit Free Press, with Mexican manufacutring a concern to many workers. Pressure is intensifying to reach a deal as the losses for both sides mount and spill over into the auto-manufacturing supply chain.

Full-time workers on strike are losing roughly $1,000 each week, and that's not counting the overtime many of them make.

Dennis Earl, president of UAW Local 14 in Toledo, said the union is trying to help workers by advising them on how to deal with bills that are piling up. The union hall's kitchen is serving meals around the clock, and donations of food and household items are pouring in from other labor groups in the area. "Nobody's going to go hungry," he said.

"As this goes on and becomes more difficult, there's going to be some agitation, but for the most part, these people are in it for the long haul," he said.

A UAW flag flies near strikers outside the General Motors Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

GM dealers across the country report still-healthy inventory on their lots, but they're running short of parts to fix their customers' vehicles, and some have had to cancel service appointments.

The strike immediately shut down about 30 GM factories across the U.S. Plants in Canada and Mexico remained open for a while, but one assembly site in Canada and another in Mexico have been forced to shut down due to parts shortages, and analysts expect the closings to spread.

Many workers stocked away emergency cash after months of warnings from union leaders about a strike, but they said GM's temporary workers who make much less couldn't do that.

Randilyn Smith, a temp worker and single mom of three, had to do something as she watched her savings drain away.

"I've actually put my house up for sale. And I thought GM would be the way to provide for my family," Smith told WJRT in Flint, Michigan. "I worked as much overtime as I could, 12-hour shifts and every weekend."

The Anderson Economic Group, a consulting firm in East Lansing, Michigan, estimates that 75,000 workers at auto parts companies have been laid off or had their pay cut because of the strike.

That doesn't include waitresses, convenience store clerks and others who are seeing their hours decline because striking workers aren't out spending money.

Truck driver Glen Hodge, who hauls scrap metal from a stamping plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, has been off the job for three weeks.

Since then, he has filed for unemployment, dropped his cable TV package, stopped going out to eat with his wife and even cut back on dog treats. It upsets him a bit when he sees gift cards and donations pouring in for the striking workers.


"What about the rest of us?" he said on Wednesday. "There's a bunch of us sitting around getting nothing."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.