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 and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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