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Strike effect: Local leaders will have to wait until November for details

General Motors workers walk the picket line outside the Wentzville Assembly Plant Oct. 15.

On Oct. 15, nearly 4,500 General Motors workers at the Wentzville Assembly Plant reached the 30-day mark of the national United Auto Workers [UAW] strike against the company.

Nationally, about 49,000 workers walked off the job on Sept. 15 as contact negotiations came to a halt. As part of those negotiations, UAW leaders sought higher pay, greater job security, protection of health care benefits and a bigger share of profits for GM workers.

Originally, workers said they expected the strike to last a few weeks but spirits on the picket lines were high on Day 30. Many of the cars passing by the Wentzville Assembly Plant honked their horns in solidarity with the workers, several nearby restaurants delivered food at no cost.

“There’s been a lot of community support,” Wentzville Mayor Nick Guccione said. “A lot of restaurants have brought food to them; people bring them water. The community’s just been very generous to them. We’re a very tight-knit community, and we take care of our own for the most part. A lot of these workers live in Wentzville. They’re our citizens, our family members and friends, so there’s a lot of compassion put there for them.”

Other than the opportunity to show compassion, both Guccione and St. Charles County Finance Director Bob Schnur predicted little effect on the city and county.

“We really think that the most dramatic effect of all of this will fall on the city of Wentzville,” Schnur said.

But Guccione said, “We’ll feel a little bit of a pinch, but we’re a city of 43,000 people and we’re diverse. The GM Plant is our No. 1 employer, but we have a lot of other, different employers in the community. It will affect us but not as much as people might think it would.”

Both men said the first real indication of the strike’s effect would not come until November when September’s tax revenue data becomes available.

Scott Drachnik, director of the Missouri Job Center of St. Charles County, said the center was seeing a dramatic rise in people coming in for assistance with unemployment benefits as a result of the strike.

“That’s not something we have seen in 10 years,” he said. He noted that not only were the striking workers affected but also people whose jobs are related to the auto industry. “There’s always a ripple effect.”

On Oct. 16, KeyBanc reported General Motors and the United Auto Workers had reached a preliminary deal to end the strike. Good news for GM whose ripple effect, according to the Wall Street Journal, included an estimated loss of more than $100 million in profits per day during the strike’s duration.

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