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UAW strike stops production at Arlington GM plant, impacting local businesses negatively

Arlington GM workers were prepared to strike as "profit exerts pressure"
Arlington GM workers were prepared to strike as "profit exerts pressure" 03:21

ARLINGTON ( — As the United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three automakers enters week six, the stakes couldn't be higher. And that's true, experts say, for some of those without a seat at the table.  

Already, there are too many seats left empty at Jimmy's Big Burgers—a small, locally owned restaurant across the street from the Arlington GM plant.

"At least, more than 50% for sure," says owner Bun Ratha of the sudden impact the strike has had on his restaurant. "That's a big deal...especially for a small business like us."

Ratha says he purchased the location years after the 2019 GM strike, which pulled workers away from the plant for 40 days. 

He says the prior owner called the work stoppage "devastating" for the small business. For now, he's got his fingers crossed.

"I just hope it doesn't go for that long," says Ratha.

It has taken a few weeks for autoworkers at the Arlington plant to be called onto the picket lines in what's being called a "stand up strike." Workers across the country are being called to walk out in stages, responding to progress in negotiations—or a lack thereof.    

In a statement, GM called the addition of Arlington workers to the strike an "unnecessary escalation." But many Arlington autoworkers say they have been expecting it because profit exerts pressure.

"This plant is very important," says Tyson Montgomery. "This plant is the moneymaker."

Montgomery, a 28-year veteran of the Arlington plant, doesn't mince words: stopping production at GM's most profitable plant is intended for maximum impact. "We build the SUVs, the Tahoes, the Escalades, the GMCs...we build all the SUVs. Yes, they're gonna feel this."

He knows his family finances will feel it as well, so Montgomery says he's been stocking his own strike "rainy day fund" and cutting back on unnecessary expenses.

It is a move that makes sense for striking workers. Experts say personal finances will likely feel the strike escalation most. But the overall North Texas economy is very diverse and therefore insulted.

"People are gonna suffer because of this. I don't want to make light of that," says professor Mike Davis, an economist at SMU's Cox School of Business. "But this is a much bigger economy than the GM plant in Arlington. We're not some town in northern Michigan that has one factory that we depend on for everything. So the bigger economic implications for the broader metroplex, I think, are relatively minimal."

Still, no one knows how long the strike will last and when those away from the plant could be impacted.

"What this means for car deliveries? You know, that's an interesting question," admits Davis. "Because, again, what those people do in Arlington...they make the kind of cars people wanna buy."

Striking autoworkers say they appreciate the support of honking commuters, and especially of fellow union members stopping by.

"We want them to know 100% that we are behind them," says Roy Coleman, of Teamsters Local Union 767. "We just went through this struggle, so we know what they're going through."

Montgomery says he appreciates that support.

"It's going to be a fight."

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