UAW Calls For Strike Against GM

Photo: AP

Capping a summer of tense negotiations between the UAW and Detroit’s Big Three, the union today called for a nationwide strike as they push for higher wages and better job protections. The strike is set to begin just before midnight.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told Jalopnik that negotiations continue over wages, job security, and paths to seniority for temporary workers.

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Recent plant closures and depressed sales are also big issues, in addition to healthcare, which costs GM nearly $900 million a year. NPR reports that the UAW has committed to a deal which includes no healthcare cost increases for workers, especially as both workers and GM eye possible economic contraction on the horizon.

In response to the strike announcement, GM issued a statement claiming that the package offered to the UAW contains over $7 billion in investments, including protecting the jobs from the plants recently “unallocated” in Michigan and Ohio, introducing a line of electric-powered trucks, and building the first union-staffed battery cell plant in the United States. GM saw profits of over $8 billion last year.

The negotiations have occurred against a backdrop of internal turmoil at the UAW, whose former vice president pled guilty to corruption charges back in April. That whole mess will continue to unfold as negotiations and a possible strike continue.

Should a recession hit, a large number of current UAW workers have never experienced an industry downturn. With that in mind, the union is banking on a revised contract to keep these workers protected from the likelihood of a down market that could mean pressure on wages, “allocation” of production facilities, and benefits.

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A prolonged strike would draw blood from both sides. The last strike against G.M. was a two-day strike in 2007.

Per Reuters:

As of Sept. 1, the automaker had 96 days supply of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, 59 days supply of its Chevrolet Equinox SUV and more than 100 days supply of the Cadillac Escalade.

If the strike is short, hourly workers should not suffer much. But strike pay provided by the UAW, which has been building up reserves in preparation for possible industrial action, is just $250 per week.

This is far below their normal wages. The longer the strike goes on, the harder it will be for GM’s workers to pay their bills.

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Max Finkel

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.