Shortly after midnight, Fain joined protestors outside the Michigan Assembly Plant west of Detroit, where he was mobbed by a mix of media and workers.
Fain appeared jubilant, smiling and leading chants as he crossed Michigan Avenue. At one point, he embraced a beaming UAW Vice President Chuck Browning on the median of Michigan Avenue amid cheers and a near constant stream of honking from passing cars.
Fain applauded his members.
“They’re the first ones out and I’m damn proud of them,” he said, noting the union would stay on strike “as long as it takes.”
Michael Huddleston, a 35-year-old temporary worker at Michigan Assembly, said it was important for him to be at the plant at midnight.
“I look at it as longevity,” he said. “I make $17.67 an hour. You can’t really live off that.”
He said he can barely afford his Chevy truck payment.
“I want them to take care of us,” he said. “People at McDonald’s provide better than what we can provide right now.”
Fain also pushed back on allegations the union did not bargain seriously with the companies.
“They waited until the last week to want to get down to business,” Fain said. “Shame on them, and what they’re saying’s complete BS.”
GM, in a statement, said it received official notice from the union that workers at the Wentzville plant were on strike. “We are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments,” the company said.
“We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S. In the meantime, our priority is the safety of our workforce.”
Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing and sustainability, in a video to employees released shortly after midnight Friday, said: “Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement by the Sept. 14 deadline. I want you to know it wasn’t due to lack of effort. I believe we made four compelling offers, each being adjusted based on the feedback we were getting from the UAW discussions.
“Our bargaining teams on both sides have worked and will continue to work hard to make sure that we’re able to find a solution. Our goal remains the same: We expect a fair contract which rewards team members and also protects our company’s future.”
In an earlier statement, Ford said that the union responded with a “substantive counterproposal” around 8 p.m. Thursday but that the two sides remained far from a deal.