What The Striking GM Workers Really Want

Illustration for article titled What The Striking GM Workers Really Want
Photo: Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)

The UAW’s biggest topic of concern is clear, new developments in that ongoing UAW probe, additional background information on Nissan’s new CEO and more await you in The Morning Shift of Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.


1st Gear: Job Security

As the United Auto Workers strike on General Motors marches on, there’s really no end in sight. UAW negotiators and GM reps still haven’t managed to negotiate a contract both sides are happy with, and job security is one of the big issues keeping the two apart.

Late last night, a UAW top negotiator confirmed to Reuters job security is one of the most hotly contested topics. A letter from UAW vice president Terry Dittes to UAW officials reads:

“We have made it clear that there is no job security for us when GM products are made in other countries for the purpose of selling them here in the U.S.A. We believe that the vehicles GM sells here should be built here. We don’t understand GM’s opposition to this proposition.”

It’s very obvious why this would be a huge point of contention. Last November, GM announced it would close four factories in the U.S., including two assembly plants, and cut thousands of jobs in North America. And GM building trucks and SUVs in Mexico has further pissed off union workers.

As the automaker pivots more to electric vehicles, workers fear there won’t be the same amount of jobs available and the people working at transmission plants won’t get paid as much. Before the strike started last month, GM did say:

it had offered to make $7 billion in new U.S. investments in eight facilities in four states, but did not specify timing, location or products with the exception of a planned electric truck.


Which makes you wonder if those closed plants were intended as bargaining chips since the beginning!

To date, GM has lost over half a billion dollars because of the strike. It doesn’t seem like either side is budging with this one.


2nd Gear: Meanwhile, The UAW Probe Continues

Back in August, we reported the Feds conducting a series of raids across at least four states as part of the UAW corruption scandal. Among the properties raided were the Detroit home of current UAW president, Gary Jones, and the California home of Dennis Williams, ex-UAW president. Now, federal agents are trying to find out if the Detroit automakers “indirectly paid” money to build a lakefront home for Williams.


The Feds want to find out if money from GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler was “funneled through jointly operated training centers” to buy perks for UAW leaders at the Black Lake retreat, with or without the permission of auto executives, reports the Detroit News. From the story:

Investigators have issued grand jury subpoenas, including at least one to a contractor who worked at the UAW Black Lake Conference Center, to determine whether as much as $1 million from Detroit automakers was spent on personal luxuries for union leaders, according to sources familiar with the investigation who are not authorized to speak publicly. Those luxuries include a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, 1,885-square-foot home for Williams, boats and a dock exclusively used by UAW officers, the sources said.

The UAW used its own money to pay for the Williams home and renovate an adjacent cottage used by the retired president, union spokesman Brian Rothenberg told The News. The expenses were part of a $10 million Black Lake renovation project approved by the UAW’s governing board approximately four years ago, he said.

“Black Lake is a 50-year old facility that welcomes tens of thousands of UAW members and the public each year,” Rothenberg wrote in an email to The News. “There were renovations to those facilities during President Williams’ term of office done by UAW Black Lake employees who belong to the United Steelworkers union.”


So far, there have been no criminal charges filed that relate to the Black Lake investigation. But the investigation is still young. And I have a feeling this UAW scandal goes deep. Eleven people have been charged so far, but I’ll bet there will be more.

You can read the rest of the News’ story here; it’s very detailed.

3rd Gear: More On That New Nissan Boss

Yesterday, we learned Nissan had crowned a new CEO: 53-year-old Makoto Uchida. He’s a Nissan veteran, has good Renault relations and has helped lead the Chinese market. Here’s a bit more about him.


Uchida worked overseas for Renault and Samsung in South Korea. And he studied theology at Doshisha University, which Automotive News points out is an irregular background for an auto industry executive.

Uchida’s most immediate orders of business will be to somehow stop Nissan’s sliding profits and “execute a massive overhaul” while also balancing relationships between France and Japan.


Fingers crossed for this guy that he doesn’t get found out for any sort of scandal either!

4th Gear: Pod Cars

Back in January 2018, which was approximately 72 years ago, we first laid eyes on Toyota’s E-Palette mobile space, which the automaker showed off at CES. It’ll hit Tokyo’s streets next year for the 2020 Summer Olympics. While it may seem rather boring and faceless, Toyota’s global design chief feels it’ll invite a “golden age” of automotive design.


A golden age of more creative and personalized design, to be specific, according to Automotive News Europe. This is why:

Because as Toyota sees it, future vehicles will polarize in two directions. At one pole will be utilitarian runabouts such as the e-Palette that are dedicated to getting people and things from A to B. And at the other end will be ultraspecialized vehicles for personal use.

And that’s where the fun starts for designers. Demand for unique sports cars, off-roaders, luxury sedans or other provocative niche vehicles may actually increase, Humphries reckons.

That’s because the spread of on-demand, new-mobility people movers will eliminate the need for people to buy a humdrum, one-size-fits all vehicle, such as a family SUV or midsize sedan.


So, basically, because cars like the e-Palette will exist to do all the mundane stuff, people can afford to go a little crazier with the “fun car.” This is all assuming people can afford two cars by this point and the world hasn’t caught on fire. Sure! I’ll believe it when I see it.

5th Gear: Renault CEO Could Be Out

Meanwhile, at Renault, things don’t seem to be quite so peachy.

Thierry Bollore, Renault CEO, could be on his way out, according to Automotive News Europe, which cited French newspaper Le Figaro. From the story:

Bollore was a close ally of former Renault Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. He expressed support for Ghosn after his former boss was arrested in Japan for alleged financial crimes last November, angering Nissan.

Nissan has little confidence in Bollore and his relations with Senard are no more than cordial, Les Echos, another French newspaper, reported.

Some at Renault are questioning why Bollore, as a protege of Ghosn, remains at the helm of the automaker while other Ghosn confidants have left or been forced out, Les Echos said. The newspaper said that as well as stabilizing Renault’s alliance with Nissan, Senard’s mandate “clean house” at Renault, a step he had yet to take.


Bollore’s succession proposal could be brought up at the next board meeting on Oct. 18, apparently. With Nissan’s new CEO at the helm, it’s unclear what sort of steps the two companies will take to get themselves back on the right track.

Reverse: Meteorite, Meet Malibu


Neutral: How Long Do You Think This Strike Is Gonna Last?

With the automotive industry as global as it is, do you think there’s going to be any re-investing in the North American labor force?

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.



I get that auto workers want job “security” since many of them have worked there for decades. You don’t want to be thrown out at the end on your duff when you’re in your 50's. But honestly, there is a lot of myopic thinking and entitlement views coming from so many of these Rust Belt workers. Sure GM and other companies are greedy even when they pull in huge profits, but now we are at a point where they aren’t, and the auto industry is about to shift where even Stevie Wonder can see it. 

The problem was encapsulated to me with one woman who gave an interview to the news where she said “My grandfather worked here at GM, I work here at GM and I want my kids to be able to work here at GM.” She (and many of those workers) view it as some sort of “generational right” to have these job waiting for them at the same high wages they’ve always to had it... forever. The US/world just doesn’t work that way but they refuse to recognize it or are simply ignorant of that fact.

Electric cars are coming. More robots are coming. Less sales are coming. Yet these workers don’t view any of this as a good reason or sign to save money, send their kids to college and/or encourage them to seek another line of work so this doesn’t happen to them.

The autoworkers remind me of people who built homes in thick forests or beach coastlines and then complain that the state/government aren’t doing enough to prevent fires or beach erosion, and then say “I’m going to rebuilt my destroyed home right here” against logic.