FLINT, Mich. — It's nearing 4:30 a.m. when the driver of a white Chevrolet Tahoe flicks on red emergency lights and approaches Gate 6 of General Motors' Flint Assembly plant.
"A cop?" Michael Beck wonders aloud. The 31-year-old temporary worker from Chassis 4 questions how he and his coworkers had drawn attention to their patch of curb along five-lane Van Slyke Road.
The relatively small band of third-shift employees staffing picket lines from 3 to 7 a.m. hasn't seen much action since the strike against GM began in mid-September and on Tuesday entered Day 23 as the two sides continued to bargain.
The hours on the picket line typically bleed into one another, with a mundane quiet broken only by the rumble of a passing car or occasional small talk. As the white Tahoe comes closer, the group looks around.
Are the flames of the burn barrel too high? The wood inside had been generously stacked in anticipation of the night's low temperature of 42 degrees — the coldest of the strike to date.
Or is the nearby dark blue Dodge Journey, belonging to a coworker, parked too closely to official GM property?
Beck quickly gets his answer.
"You guys need some wood?" the Tahoe driver asks as he hops out, opening a rear door to reveal a plastic trash can full of chopped up pallets.
The good Samaritan identifies himself only as a member of UAW Local 651, which represented workers at GM's nearby Davidson Road Processing Center. The flashing lights came from his side job as a volunteer firefighter.
He helps the group restock their dwindling wood pile, shakes workers' hands and drives away.
"See that?" Beck says. "It's people like that who keep us going."