GM worker on strike struck by car, dies at Tennessee plant

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

A General Motors Co. employee was struck by a car and killed Tuesday while out picketing on the strike line near the automaker's Tennessee plant, according to police.

Roy A. McCombs died while on strike with the United Auto Workers outside the Spring Hill Manufacturing plant. The union confirmed his identity in a statement.

Lt. Jeremy Haywood, of the Columbia Police Department, said he could not confirm the victim's identity because, "we're still waiting to identify the next of kin."

"All I can say is we are still investigating a motor vehicle accident that happened on an overpass that leads to the south gate of the GM plant around 6:15 this morning," said Haywood. "A passenger car struck a pedestrian and sadly, the person succumbed to his injuries and passed away."

Tim Stannard, front left, president of United Auto Workers Local 1853, talks with striking workers at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. A judge on Monday issued a temporary restraining order to prevent striking workers from blocking access to the facility. GM had submitted a complaint stating picketers had prevented access to the plant, placed screws and nails on the roadway, threatened motorists and damaged vehicles.

Haywood said investigators from the department were on scene alongside the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

UAW President Gary Jones and Vice President Terry Dittes called the incident "heartbreaking" in their joint statement and pledged to work to ensure safety on the picket line. 

"Roy A. McCombs tragically lost his life today on a picket line standing up for a better life for himself and his coworkers," the statement said. "On behalf of the UAW, we offer condolences to Brother McCombs and family, friends and co-workers."

On Tuesday, Local 1853 members at Spring Hill voted down the contract 51% to 49% with skilled trades and production votes combined, according to unofficial results on the local's website. The skilled trades members alone approved the deal 55% to 45% while production members voted it down 51% to 49%.

Earlier in the month, another GM worker, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, died of a heart attack while on the picket line. 

Jennifer Taylor McDowell, 51, had previously worked at the Detroit-Hamtramck GM Assembly Plant.