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Mike Cartwright in front of UAW Local 276 hall in Arlington, Texas. Cartwright also went on strike in 2007 against GM and feels stronger community support this time. (Photo: Ronald Reese)

About 1,200 miles south of Detroit, several thousand UAW workers in Texas are watching the news from the Renaissance Center.

UAW and General Motors dealerships have been lifted at RenCen in negotiations since GM's contract with the union expired on September 14. This caused 46,000 union members to go on strike nationwide against GM two days later.

These strikers include nearly 5,000 workers at GM's Arlington assembly plant in Texas.

"I haven't heard anyone say: 'Let's go back to work,'" said Mike Cartwright, union worker at the facility. They want to go back to work, but they want to hear from the negotiating table that they have an appointment. "

On Tuesday, Terry told Dittes, UAW's main dealer with GM, to strike the two sides remains far from a tentative deal. In a letter to members, Dittes said that GM made a "comprehensive proposal" Monday night. "This proposal … did not meet the contract's requirements or needs. There were many areas that fell short like health care, salaries, temporary staff, skilled trades and job security to name a few."

Some analysts estimate strike has cost GM about $ 1 billion so far.

More: GM can withstand loss of UAW strike – because of what it will earn

More: UAW rejects GM's latest offers, members tell that it & # 39; came short & # 39;

Labor Law

Almost all of Arlington's 5,000 hourly workers belong to the UAW, notable considering that Texas has been a right to work since 1941. This means that under the Labor Code, a person cannot be denied employment due to membership or non-membership in a trade union or other work organization.

Michigan is also a right to work in recent years, but with a richer union than Texas.

Labor leaders at Arlington say that UAW members are committed to this strike.

"We were one of the establishments with a higher percentage of members that allowed the UAW to go on strike," said Ken Hines, store chairman at UAW Local 276. "Nobody wants to strike, but we felt it was necessary to win back some of the concessions we made during the bankruptcy period. "

Ken Hines is the store chairman of UAW Local 276 for GM's Arlington Assembly plant in Arlington, Texas. He urged union members for a year to start saving their money in the event of a strike. (Photo: Ken Hines)

One of these was a cost of living that union members want to reinstate, among other issues.

Hines said most strikers prefer to return to work, but are prepared for a long strike and will, "continue to sacrifice as long as it takes."

The union wants job security, higher wages and a way for temporary workers to be permanently employed with better wages and benefits. GM wants to lower costs, preferably by hiring more temporary workers.

The union also wants to protect the benefits of health care, while GM has been told that union members pay more than the 3% of the total costs they now pay.

The two sides are at risk, which means Saturday is day 20 for the strike.

Hines, 50, ensured that members would be prepared for long strikes. From the beginning of last year, he will remind members of all union meetings to start saving their money.

"Because you never know what the future holds, and we wanted to make sure our membership was prepared in case we went on strike," Hines said.

Hines has the phone number of about 1,700 of his union members programmed into his cellphone, he said. He has texted about half of them since the strike began to check their welfare.

"Someone's struggling," Hines said. These are usually temporary workers who earned less and did not get overtime to save money.

Hines said he referred them to food banks. Local residents and businesses have also provided food, money and other items to the local union hall for those in need.

American Dream City

Cartwright, 59, is OK financially to endure a strike. He was at those union meetings and remembers Hines saying, "Hey, remember that contract time is coming, and we don't know what to expect, so save money."

Cartwright has worked for GM for 34 years. six years at GM's Fairfax Assembly and Stamping Plant in Kansas City, Kansas. The rest of his time has been at Arlington, a massive 5.75 million-square-foot facility located 250 feet straight between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Arlington is the American dream city, according to the official government website . GM's website said that the plant mines 1,200 of GM's most profitable vehicles daily: Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

"We know we make a lot of money for the company here," Cartwright said.

Hines and Cartwright said that workers in Arlington want assurance that GM will invest in US production and not stop allocating vehicles there suddenly, such as GM last fall at four other factories in the United States.

GM said it will indefinitely idle to Detroit-Hamtramck, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, and a transmission facility in Warren and one in Baltimore. As part of the original offer to UAW, GM had offered solutions to keep Detroit-Hamtramck running by building an electric pickup and providing a battery manufacturing facility to the Lordstown area. GM said it would invest $ 7 billion in US production and create or maintain 5,400 jobs. [19659006] More: The fate of the GM Lordstown plant is unclear as contract talks hang: What can happen

More: GM promises UAW 5,400 jobs, $ 7 B in US Investment: What It Means

More Support

Cartwright has lived through strikes from the past. In 2007, UAW went on strike against GM for two days. Cartwright said the community was less supportive then, and wondered why the workers were on strike.

But this time it's different. He said GM is a big company that is teaming up with UAW workers to do local charities.

"We do a lot of community work here and we have a connection with companies and organizations, so we get more support from the community this time," Cartwright said. "When we have problems, we don't have to explain them. People know what we're about."

Cartwright said there are 10 gates surrounding the facility in Arlington, and each day has around 10 pickets in front of them. Everybody does 4 hour a week picket rates, and often trade unionists in other industries show themselves in solidarity with them.

Members also look at social media, their e-mails and updated news sites about the strike.

"Our key issues are the salaries of our benefits and the treatment of temporary workers," Cartwright said. "It's about justice. Most of us have been here for many years, the temporary staff doesn't affect us. But it's about all of us and we want what's fair. The mood is that everyone here understands that this is a process we must through and we must support our leadership. "

For many at Arlington, it is their first time to strike, Cartwright said." They heard about sacrifices in the past, they see and feel the victims now. "

right to employment, Cartwright said the strike will serve to "improve our membership and ties."

Contact Jamie L. LaReau: 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com Follow her on Twitter @ jlareauan Read more at General Motors and sign up for our newsletter

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