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UAW labor strike: Picketers block Michigan GM plant

By Nicholas Sakelaris

Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Striking employees of General Motors used their bodies and vehicles to block all entrances to the automaker's Flint Assembly Plant Monday, several hours into a United Auto Workers labor walkout.

Vehicles lined up on roads around the plant and picketers walked with signs on nearby Interstate 75, causing traffic to come to a virtual standstill.

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Entrance gates to the plant were locked and chained Monday, forcing traffic to be rerouted.

More than 48,000 workers are striking to demand fair wages, affordable healthcare and job security.

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Contract talks between GM and the UAW have been going for 18 months. The UAW contract expired Sunday and the strike started at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The two sides were scheduled to meet again Monday, and GM has said it will "negotiate around-the-clock."

The automaker has offered new solutions for vacant plants in Michigan and Ohio, as well as new investment for eight facilities in four states. GM has also promised new all-electric trucks and the opportunity to become the first union-represented battery cell manufacturing site in the United States.

"We're telling GM that we're not backing down," James Fisette, a fork lift driver, told the Detroit Free Press. "They are trying to get through and our people have been hit four times."

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Engine builder James Bothell said he was bumped by a vehicle trying to enter the plant.

"Thing is, I think most of these people on salary get it -- 95 percent are nodding their heads as they pass by Bothell said. "I think a strike is long overdue, to be honest. In 2007, we opened up our contract and gave away a lot of things, like vacation days and cost-of-living increases and holidays."

Several drivers who attempted to enter the plant said they weren't replacement workers but were permanent GM employees.

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