SPRING HILL, Tenn. – A United Auto Workers picket was struck and killed Tuesday by a driver outside the General Motors plant in Spring Hill amid an ongoing strike.
UAW union officials released a statement Tuesday about the worker, Roy A. McCombs, 55, of Columbia.
“Roy A. McCombs tragically lost his life today on a picket line standing up for a better life for himself and his coworkers,” UAW President Gary Jones and Vice President Terry Dittes said in a joint statement. “On behalf of the UAW, we offer condolences to Brother McCombs and family, friends and co-workers. Today’s accident is heartbreaking for UAW Spring Hill members. We will continue to work to ensure that safety is a priority on the picket line.”
The wreck occurred at 6:15 a.m. at a bridge that leads to the plant’s south entrance in the boundary of Columbia. The plant’s north gate lies within Spring Hill.
“It was an accident involving a pedestrian and car. The individual pedestrian sadly succumbed to injuries and passed away,” Columbia Police Department Lt. Jeremy Haywood said.
The preliminary investigation and witness statements suggest that McCombs was not actively picketing at the moment of the crash but attempting to cross the roadway near the picket line, according to a Columbia Police Department news release.
The driver of the vehicle was a woman in her mid-20s taking her children to the day care located on the GM property, according to Haywood.
Haywood said he is doubtful charges will be filed.
General Motors Manufacturing, UAW and the driver of the vehicle are all cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
“We are deeply saddened to confirm an employee death occurred this morning from a vehicle-pedestrian accident on a public road near GM’s Spring Hill Assembly Plant’s south entrance,” Courtney Jackson, GM Spring Hill communications manager, said.
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Mike Herron, UAW Spring Hill bargaining chairman, posted on Facebook that strike activities at the south gate have halted indefinitely. He also said a crisis team has been called in to aid those affected.
“No UAW member will be deployed to this location – today or at any point in the future,” Herron said.
Herron extended his condolences to the family.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Brother Roy McCombs,” he said.
Other pickets said today’s incident kept them on guard, but didn’t make them scared.
“It makes you more aware, that’s for sure,” GM worker Eric Blackmore said, standing along Highway 31 in front of a Super Target shopping center. “We keep our eyes open, but it doesn’t make me personally uneasy. I am used to traffic growing up in New York City. But as you see, we are still out here. We just keep on going, even though it’s a tragedy no matter how you look at it.”
Strikers near the GM mansion between the entrances have taken a few steps back farther from Highway 31. Some even wore bright safety vests while waving their signs.
“It’s tragic — ain’t no right or wrong to it,” GM worker Keith Bell said outside the mansion property. “You can only stand back and be mindful. It’s a tragic accident and you have his family dealing with it and the driver’s. It’s a day of prayer.”
The strike, which has been ongoing for 37 days, will continue until the contract between GM and UAW is ratified. Votes on a tentative contract agreement are expected to be in at 4 p.m. Friday, according to Brian Rothenberg, UAW head of communications.