CLEVELAND — Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined striking members of UAW Local 1005 outside of the Parma GM Metal plant Monday to show his support and echo the wishes of others as the nationwide strike against GM enters its second week and is now the second-longest nationwide strike since 1970.
"You all have a lot more support than you all know out there from a lot of people," Brown told the picketers along Chevrolet Boulevard.
One of the workers shared his disappointment with the company.
"You got to take care of your family first and that's not what GM is doing right now," the man said.
Senator Brown urged strikers to fill out the necessary paperwork needed for healthcare benefits after the automaker cut the striking workers, forcing them to switch over to a union COBRA plan.
"Normally you would have some time frame after you go out to get that converted," said UAW Local 1005 President Mike Caldwell of GM's quick decision to stop the benefits. "But General Motors felt the need to cut us off immediately."
Fifty-one-year GM Employee Dave Cimperman said at least his healthcare provider was understanding.
"I explained I no longer have my Blue Cross; they said not to worry, 'Just give us the numbers when you get your COBRA.'"
A decade ago, the union made concessions to keep GM afloat, a debt Brown believes they need to repay.
"This company is more and more profitable, they still move production off-shore, they still take a lot of the money from themselves and then they treat the workers this way and I think that workers are right in demanding that they, in essence, get paid back for what they gave up ten years ago."
That included the use of temporary hires, wages and profit sharing for those hired into a different tier that was established.
"These are workers standing up for the temp workers, they're standing up for workers who are in that second-wage tier, staring at $15 or $17 an hour, which was a give back a concession the UAW made when we rescued the auto industry. I mean that's pretty much forgotten by GM," Brown said.