Durbin Reiterates Solidarity with UAW Members Amid Strikes Across the Country

Yesterday, Durbin visited a UAW picket line in Bolingbrook

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor reiterating his support for members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) as they strike across the country forbetter wages and benefits.  Durbin has repeatedly called on the Big Three Automakers – General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis – to negotiate in good faith with UAW to reach an agreement before UAW members began their strike earlier this month.

“I heard my colleague earlier, Senator Schumer, talk about visiting a picket line for the United Auto Workers this morning.  I did the same thing yesterday morning in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  UAW local warehouse workers were out on the line, drinking coffee and eating a few doughnuts, holding their signs in solidarity with their union.  I wanted to walk over there and be with them,” Durbin said.  “You have to understand when a worker like a UAW worker goes on strike, they are really walking away from their paycheck… The same thing is true when it comes to medical benefits… What I'm trying to get to is, the bottom line is, these strikes are personal and families sacrifice on behalf of the workers.”

Durbin spoke about the labor movement in the United States, highlighting his family’s personal connection as the child of a union family.  As Durbin noted, the labor movement is responsible for the 40-hour work week, job-related health care benefits, and pensions.  Following in the footsteps of labor leaders like Walter Reuther, UAW members today are striking for fair pay and benefits.

“The organized labor movement, which I happened to be a child of a union family growing up, really made a difference in the life of Americans.  The 40-hour work week, overtime, vacation, health care benefits, pension – virtually every one of those elements that are part of a good, modern job were fought for and sometimes died for by those who were working in the labor movement in the earliest days,” Durbin continued.  “Now the modern struggle of the UAW is not unlike that of the 1940s.”

Durbin recalled UAW’s workers willingness to make sacrifices to keep auto plants alive during the 2008 financial crisis.  These autoworkers took pay cuts and reduced benefits in order to keep the Big Three operational, saving those companies from shuttering.  These companies have now bounced back and rake in billions annually, but autoworkers have yet to see equitable wages for their work.

“The President of the UAW, Mr. Fain, came by my office several times to talk about his goals.  He made it clear, and we all knew the answer, that when it came to the question of the survival of these automobile makers in 2008 when the economy plunged, it was the workers who stood up and said, ‘we'll make sacrifices and changes so these companies can survive,’” said Durbin.  “President Obama was determined to keep those companies alive during that period of time.  UAW did its part and did it well.  They sacrificed wages and benefits.  They said that the new workers would be paid dramatically less than those that had been there for years, and they literally saved those companies.  Now those companies are profitable to the tune of billions of dollars a year, and what the UAW is saying, for goodness sakes, make sure the workers are part of the success story, too.”

“The three executives that lead the automobile manufacturers all make over $20 million a year, each and every one of them… Meanwhile, the wages for the executives have gone up 40 percent in the last five years and for the workers, six percent.  So there is a disparity there that needs to be addressed and done fairly.  We want to make sure the companies are profitable, that they build products we're proud of, but we also want to make sure that the workers, who are sacrificing every single day, share in that profitability, share in that productivity.  They can do it if they're part of the contract that's now being negotiated,” Durbin said.

Durbin concluded his remarks by recounting his experience visiting UAW members on the picket line in Bolingbrook, Illinois, yesterday.  Durbin emphasized that these workers are well-deserving of increased pay, as the achievements of UAW workers have contributed to the deep profits of the Big Three.

“I was out there on the line for about a half-hour yesterday, saying hello to the workers and encouraging them to be strong during this period.  It is a time of personal sacrifice, but it's well worth it, not only for their sisters and brothers in the union, but for workers all over America who will prosper with the achievements that are made by the UAW.  I'm proud to have had their support over the years, and I'm proud to stand with them in this time of challenge,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here for TV Stations.