Threats phoned into several Michigan high schools

Bernie Sanders calls for 'justice' outside Detroit-Hamtramck GM plant

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders walked the picket line and delivered a brief speech to rally dozens of United Auto Workers members picketing the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant Wednesday.

His message: "Working people of this country want justice."

United Auto Workers listen to Sen. Bernie Sanders  in front of General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly
on Wednesday.

His 20-minute stop at the plant came on the 10th day of a nationwide strike against GM by some 46,000 UAW members as leadership from both sides negotiate a new four-year contract. Sanders was one of three Democratic candidates to stop at Detroit-Hamtramck picket lines and show support of the UAW members in a state that helped President Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Elizabeth Warren visited Sunday, and Amy Klobuchar was there Thursday.

Sanders joined the picket line outside the plant for a few laps before delivering a speech on the median outside the plant.

"The working people of this country are not looking sympathetically today to General Motors," Sanders said, highlighting that GM was bailed out by the U.S. government, and paid CEO Mary Barra nearly $22 million in total compensation last year. "What the workers here are saying and the workers all over America are saying is enough is enough."

Sen. Bernie Sanders walks the picket line with United Auto Workers in front of General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly on Wednesday.

The UAW strike against GM started Sept. 16, one day after the 2015 UAW contract expired. Bargaining committees from GM and the UAW have met daily to negotiate a new deal, but sticking points on wages, health care costs, product allocation and GM's use of temporary workers on its assembly lines have been hot-button issues. 

UAW members and those representing them at the table say they want a cut of the profits GM has posted for the past four years. GM has said it expects the economy to slow, auto sales to stagnate, and costs to rise over the next four years. Relations between the UAW and GM were strained heading into negotiations earlier this summer after GM said it would cancel products at several GM facilities, effectively idling the plants that made those products.

Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke for about 20 minutes to United Auto Workers in front of General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly on Wednesday, September. 25, 2019.  

Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

Sanders criticized what he said was a lack of investment in the GM workforce.

"What we are saying today is to start investing in your workers," Sanders said. "Pay your workers a decent wage. Stop shutting down plants in America, and moving abroad. And let me tell you something. If General Motors thinks that after they treat their workers like crap they're gonna go to Washington and get huge federal contracts, they've got another (thing) coming. We want companies in this country to be decent corporate citizens."

GM spokesman Jim Cain responded in a statement: "Criticism about the wages and benefits GM pays is unwarranted. The total compensation of our UAW workforce – including wages, profit sharing and benefits – is the highest in the U.S. auto industry."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau