The United Auto Workers union confirmed that one of its members, Roy A. McCombs, died after being hit by a vehicle on a General Motors picket line in Tennessee on Tuesday.
McCombs was struck by an automobile traveling near the entrance to the GM plant in Spring Hill, south of Nashville. WKRN reports that the crash occurred around 6 a.m. on a highway bridge where GM workers have been maintaining a picket line for over a month.
“Roy A. McCombs tragically lost his life today on a picket line standing up for a better life for himself and his coworkers,” the UAW said in a statement. “Today’s [crash] is heartbreaking for UAW Spring Hill members. We will continue to work to ensure that safety is a priority on the picket line.”
Workers at the Spring Hill plant assemble Cadillac and GMC sport utility vehicles. Like nearly 50,000 other GM workers across the country, they have been on strike for more than a month after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the automaker.
Unions tend to hold picket lines outside plant entrances to discourage scabs from crossing and to hold a visible protest for the public to see. UAW members have been sustaining their pickets 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with members typically assigned to six-hour shifts.
Striking workers often stand or sit on the side of the road, where passing cars honk their support. A lot of UAW locals have distributed high-visibility vests for members to wear on the picket lines when it’s dark. WKRN reported that the driver who hit McCombs was cooperating with police.
GM workers walked off the job on Sept. 16, shortly after their previous contract expired. Their strike has turned into the longest work stoppage in the auto industry in a generation, with workers calling on GM to guarantee production at U.S. plants and to raise the pay scale for newer hires.
So far, the strike has cost GM an estimated $1.5 billion in profits and has cost workers more than $800 million in wages.
The UAW’s top negotiators reached a tentative agreement with GM last week, a crucial step in ending the strike. Members are voting on the deal this week, with a majority needed to ratify it.