GM Worker Killed on Picket Line in Tennessee

Striking workers wave to supporters from an overpass above Highway 31 in Spring Hill, Tennessee. (Mike Elk)

Today, a GM worker, Roy A. McCombs, was tragically killed on a picket line in Spring Hill, Tennessee, when he was hit by a car in the early morning hours.

“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.”

A few weeks ago, I was at the spot where McCombs was killed, where I snapped the above photograph. There was no sidewalk there. Just workers standing on the shoulder of the road on an overpass overlooking Nashville Highway. 

The day felt festive as workers held signs and beckoned passing cars to honk for them. As a veteran of covering failed Southern union drives, the scene was inspiring.

“There has been so much honking, and you can just tell that thousands and thousands of the community, that they feel the same as the people here standing up for this,” said Adrian Mizzel, a local sheet metal worker as we stood on the highway that day. “The tide is changing.”

McCombs died on an overpass above Nashville Highway standing up for his union in the Deep South, an area where unions weren’t popular. May his memory be a blessing to the Southern workers, who will bear the fruits of his sacrifice.

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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