Minnesota Senator visits striking workers as negotiations continue

A United Auto Workers (UAW) strike is now three weeks in, but for the first time it didn’t expand Friday because of progress in negotiations.

That means workers at a Ford parts distribution center in Menomonie will stay on the job, at least for now.

Sen. Tina Smith, (D) Minnesota, walked the picket lines Friday, joining striking workers for about 30 minutes at a General Motors parts distribution center just across the border in Wisconsin.

About 80 hourly employees work here and somewhere around half of them commute from Minnesota since the center moved to Hudson from Edina in 2004. That’s also the last time a lot of them felt good about salaries.

"We haven't we haven't had raises in years," said Steve Frisque, the UAW Local 722 president. "We've had no cost of living [adjustments]."
UAW workers have gotten a pay increase since their last strike in 2019, but adjusting for inflation, economists estimate the average auto worker has seen wages fall 19% since 2008.

During that year’s financial crisis, the UAW made major concessions to help the "Big Three" auto companies — Ford, GM, and Stellantis — get back on their feet.

This first-ever strike targeting pieces of all three companies was designed to claw back some of that money.

And for the first week since the strike started, it didn’t expand Friday.

Striking workers in Hudson listened intently to UAW President Shawn Fain’s announcement of some concessions from the Big Three.

But they also just found out they’ll still be out here on strike for the foreseeable future.

"Well, for as long as it takes at this point," Frisque said.

Fain said GM agreed to let the labor deal cover battery plant workers and all three companies have offered raises of at least 20%.

In the meantime, Deutsche Bank has estimated the automakers have lost a collective $888 million in production.

"What I'm concerned about is the impact on the American economy if we continue to see these dramatic imbalance in wealth between working people and the billionaires that run these companies," Smith told FOX 9.

The Big Three turned profits of $250 billion last year, but their leaders argue the good times are temporary.

Striking workers say they helped out when the companies nearly busted and they deserve a piece of the boom.