The United Automobile Workers (UAW) have confirmed that one of their members, Roy McCombs, has died after he was hit by a car outside of the GM facility in Tennessee on Tuesday (October 22, 2019).
McCombs, who worked at the Spring Hill plant, was struck by a car at 6 AM while crossing the street to join the picket line. He was on a narrow highway bridge, just feet from the entrance to the GM plant’s South Gate.
“A few weeks ago, I was at the spot where McCombs was killed,” said labor reporter Mike Elk. “There was no sidewalk there. Just workers standing on the shoulder of the road on an overpass overlooking Nashville Highway.”
McCombs had been walking the picket line since September 16th when the union decided to go on strike. The picket line has been active 24/7 since the strike began to prevent scabs from entering the facility.
“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.”
According to Local 1853, which represents the Spring Hill workers, police determined that the accident, while tragic, was an accident and not a driver intentionally trying to hurt a striking worker. The local police said that the driver was cooperating with authorities investigating the incident. After the incident, Local 1853 agreed to temporarily cease active picketing in front of the plant. They also agreed to no longer picket in front of the South Gate.
Picketing outside of the Spring Hill facility had already been contentious. Being in a very anti-union state, GM pursued legal action against the striking workers to bar them from blocking entrance into the facility. Several arrests were even made.
The death comes just days after the UAW and GM announced that a tentative agreement had been reached. However, the union decided to stay on strike until the agreement was ratified by the membership. This vote of nearly 50,000 members is expected to take about a week or two to complete.
Just hours before McCombs’ death, the 3,300 Spring Hill members voted to reject the tentative agreement with GM. National voting will continue with a final vote total expected in the next week or two.