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Detroit Free Press

UAW Parts Members at GM are Being Worked to Exhaustion

The company is trying to restock their suppliers after the strike

Posted on
Jan 16, 2020

Following the UAW strike at GM, workers are being worked to exhaustion in an effort to make up for the dwindling parts inventory. Find out more about what the workers are doing to stop this below.

More than half of the hourly workers at General Motors Ypsilanti Processing Center have been written up for skipping work since late October.

But they are exhausted, exasperated and speaking up.

The 125 regular hourly workers have had just a handful of days off over the last few months — most of which were holidays. That's because GM is pushing to fix a massive, nationwide parts shortage that has left many customers vexed.

The facility has been in "emergency status." That means mandatory seven-day workweeks until this past Sunday, the first Sunday to be voluntary. All of GM's key parts plants in southeastern Michigan have been on emergency status since Oct. 26, the day the UAW's nationwide strike against GM ended.

"I have hard feelings," toward GM demanding so much overtime, said Bill Bagwell, shop chairman at the processing center in Ypsilanti.

Bagwell watched as managers, security guards and vendors got time off. Yet he and other UAW members worked a mandatory 68 hours a week. He said management even denied him time off to attend church services.

“You want me to trust a company that wouldn’t give me a Sunday off to go to church for eight weeks?" said Bagwell. "The company that has fed me every morsel of food I’ve ever eaten — I’m second generation — has shown they don’t care about me."

Other workers at Ypsilanti echoed the sentiment, telling the Free Press that managers treat them more like "machines as opposed to humans." 

GM spokesman Jim Cain said GM is grateful for the long hours from the workers. He confirmed the Ypsilanti processing center is now on mandatory six-day weeks, running two, 10-hour shifts each day. Sunday shifts are now voluntary. As soon as GM's parts supply is restored, he said, GM will end the emergency status.

Customers wait and wait


Cain declined to comment on the disciplinary actions the automaker has taken against any workers. He said GM does not discuss personnel issues.

It's been nearly eleven weeks since the UAW's 40-day nationwide strike ended. In the days that followed, GM frantically started restoring the parts distribution system to its dealers. 

The company understands the workers' plight, said Cain, but he said, "We all have an enormous obligation to our customers, especially the people who can’t get to work or school or the doctor while they wait for parts. That’s why we have to clear the order backlogs as soon as possible."

And the UAW contract with GM allows GM to require overtime to recover from certain events, including strikes.

GM's parts distributors, suppliers, dealers and Customer Care & Aftersales team members, have been working hard to get operations back to normal as quickly as possible, said Cain. He said GM has made "huge progress" in reducing the parts backlog.

"Dealers tell us the difference between where we were last fall and where we are today is like night and day," said Cain. 

The strike had the biggest impact on parts to repair collisions because those have to be stamped at the plants.

GM customer Jesse Borden said he has waited more than six weeks for a repair part to his 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, which was hit by a driver in November. Borden, a Maryland resident, owned the truck a mere 10 days when it happened.


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