49K UAW work­ers to strike at GM’s 53 fa­cil­i­ties in US

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Tom Krisher

DETROIT — The United Auto Work­ers union an­nounced Sun­day that its roughly 49,000 work­ers at Gen­eral Mo­tors plants in the U.S. would go on strike just be­fore mid­night be­cause con­tentious talks on a new con­tract had bro­ken down.

About 200 plant-level union lead­ers voted unan­i­mously in fa­vor of a walk­out dur­ing a meet­ing Sun­day morn­ing in Detroit. Union lead­ers said the sides were still far apart on sev­eral ma­jor is­sues and they ap­par­ently weren’t swayed by a GM of­fer to make new prod­ucts at or near two of the four plants it had been plan­ning to close, ac­cord­ing to some­one briefed on the mat­ter.

“We stood up for Gen­eral Mo­tors when they needed us most,” union Vice Pres­i­dent Terry Dittes said in a state­ment, re­fer­ring to union con­ces­sions that helped GM sur­vive bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in 2009. “Now we are stand­ing to­gether in unity and sol­i­dar­ity for our mem­bers.”

Con­tract talks be­tween the United Auto Work­ers union and Gen­eral Mo­tors broke off Sun­day and haven’t re­sumed, mean­ing the union’s first na­tional strike since 2007 is very likely.

It’s still pos­si­ble that bar­gain­ers could re­turn to the ta­ble and ham­mer out an agree­ment, but union spokesman Brian Rothen­berg said at a news con­fer­ence that it would be un­likely be­cause it is hard to be­lieve they could re­solve so many is­sues be­fore 11:59 p.m.

The union rep­re­sents work­ers at 33 man­u­fac­tur­ing sites and 20 parts ware­houses na­tion­wide.

GM on Fri­day of­fered to build a new all-elec­tric pickup truck at a fac­tory in Detroit that is slated to close next year, ac­cord­ing some­one who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on the con­di­tion of anonymity. The au­tomaker also of­fered to open an elec­tric ve­hi­cle bat­tery plant in Lord­stown, Ohio, where it has a plant that has al­ready stopped mak­ing cars. The new fac­tory would be in ad­di­tion to a pro­posal to make elec­tric ve­hi­cles for a com­pany called Workhorse, the per­son said.

It’s un­clear how many work­ers the two plants would em­ploy. The clo­sures, es­pe­cially of the Ohio plant, have be­come is­sues in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has con­sis­tently crit­i­cized the com­pany and de­manded that Lord­stown be re­opened.

Rothen­berg said the com­pany made gen­eral state­ments about why it is plan­ning to strike, but he would not com­ment fur­ther on GM’s of­fer.

The union said it would strike for fair wages, af­ford­able health care, profit-shar­ing, job se­cu­rity and a path to per­ma­nent employment for tem­po­rary work­ers.

In a state­ment, GM also said the of­fer made to the union on Satur­day in­cluded more than $7 bil­lion in U.S. fac­tory in­vest­ments and the creation of 5,400 new po­si­tions, a mi­nor­ity of which would be filled by ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees. GM would not give a pre­cise num­ber. The in­vest­ments would be made at fac­to­ries in four states, two of which were not iden­ti­fied.

The state­ment also said the com­pany of­fered “best in class wages and ben­e­fits,” im­proved profit-shar­ing and a pay­ment of $8,000 to each worker upon rat­i­fi­ca­tion. The of­fer in­cluded wage or lump sum in­creases in all four years of the deal, plus “na­tion­ally lead­ing” health ben­e­fits.

JAKE MAY/THE FLINT JOUR­NAL

Su­san Dono­van and other GM em­ploy­ees demon­strate out­side the Flint Assem­bly Plant on Sun­day in Flint, Mich.

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