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GM workers worry about paying bills as strike continues

by Ace Damon
Picketing at a GM facility in Langhorne, Pa.

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John Seewer and Tom Krisher, Associated Press

Published Thursday, October 10, 2019 1:52

Last updated Thursday, October 10, 2019 10:35

TOLEDO, Ohio – Nearly four weeks after the United Auto workers strike against General Motors, employees are beginning to feel the squeeze of going without their regular salaries.

They are shrinking in the supermarket, giving up eating in restaurants, and some are taking part-time jobs as they try to survive a $ 250 weekly strike.

"In a few more weeks, I think everyone will call the bank or its creditors, saying, 'Hey, it's probably going to be late or late,'" said Mike Armentrout, who works at the company's broadcast factory. GM in Toledo.

As pressure is intensifying to reach agreement, losses on both sides are increasing and spreading through the auto supply chain.

Full-time strike workers are losing about $ 1,000 each week, and that is not counting the overtime that many of them do.

Dolphin Green, a temporary worker at an engine and transmission factory in Detroit's Romulus, Michigan, suburb, got a job doing dishes in a restaurant to help survive.

"I am willing to sacrifice as long as possible," he said.

He has been with GM for only four months, earning just under $ 16 an hour, but has hopes of working full time to support a family.

The use of temporary workers has been a major issue in contract negotiations, in addition to building vehicles in other countries, a point that emerged on Tuesday.

Green cut spending and has a girlfriend with a good job. But he is concerned about the payment of alimony at the end of the month and talked to his assistant about the temporary reduction of payments.

Dennis Earl, president of UAW Local 14 in Toledo, said the union is doing its best to help workers by advising them to deal with the accumulating bills.

The union kitchen is serving meals all the time and donations of food and household items are coming from other labor groups in the region. "No one is going to starve," he said.

"As this goes on and gets harder, there will be some excitement, but most of the time these people stay in it for a long time," he said.

One Wall Street analyst estimates GM has lost more than $ 1.6 billion since the outage began, and is now losing about $ 82 million a day.

GM dealers across the country report still healthy inventory on their lots, but are missing parts to repair their customers' vehicles.

The strike immediately shut down about 30 GM plants in the US, essentially shutting down the company's production. Factories in Canada and Mexico remained open for a while, but one assembly plant in Canada and another in Mexico were forced to close due to parts shortages. Analysts expect the closures to spread to the six factories that remain open.

Negotiations came on Wednesday night and resumed on Thursday morning, when the strike entered its 25th day.

A person informed about the talks said the union did not respond to an improved offer the company made on Monday. The person declined to be identified because the conversations are confidential. The union pointed out a letter from its chief negotiator to members saying GM is not committed to bringing production to the US from other countries.

Many workers stocked up emergency money after being warned for months by union leaders about the possibility of a strike, but said GM temporary workers, who do much less, cannot do so.

"We all knew this was coming a long time ago, I'm ready. A lot of guys aren't in the same place," said Tim Leiby, an eight-year-old employee in Toledo. "All my bills have been paid, but I know some people who don't."

Still, he's cutting his meals, going to the movies and spending money on hobbies because "we don't know how long this will last."

He also said he has a cousin who doesn't talk to him now because the strike has closed the welding shop where she works.

"It's affecting everyone, it's affecting families. Even families who don't work here," he said.

The Anderson Economic Group, a consulting firm in East Lansing, Michigan, estimates that 75,000 auto parts workers have been laid off or their salaries reduced due to the strike.

This does not include waitresses, convenience store clerks, and others who are seeing their hours reduced because striking workers are not spending money.

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

Since then, he has filed for unemployment, dropped his cable package, stopped going out to eat with his wife, and even reduced his goodies. He gets a little upset when he sees gift cards and donations coming to the striking workers.

"And the rest of us?" he said on Wednesday. "There are a lot of us sitting around with nothing."

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Krisher reported in Romulus, Michigan. Associated Press video journalist Mike Householder contributed to this report.

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