Over 49,000 go on strike against GM

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Kr­isher and Mike House­holder

More than 49,000 mem­bers of the UAW went on strike Mon­day against Gen­eral Motors, bring­ing more than 50 fac­to­ries and parts ware­houses to a stand­still in the union’s first walk­out against the No. 1 U.S. au­tomaker in over a decade.

DETROIT — More than 49,000 mem­bers of the United Auto Work­ers went on strike Mon­day against Gen­eral Motors, bring­ing more than 50 fac­to­ries and parts ware­houses to a stand­still in the union’s first walk­out against the No. 1 U.S. au­tomaker in over a decade.

Work­ers left fac­to­ries and formed picket lines shortly af­ter mid­night in the dis­pute over a new four-year con­tract. The union’s top ne­go­tia­tor said in a let­ter to the com­pany that the strike could have been averted had the com­pany made its lat­est of­fer sooner.

The let­ter dated Sun­day sug­gests that the com­pany and union are not as far apart as the rhetoric lead­ing up to the strike had in­di­cated. Ne­go­ti­a­tions re­sumed Mon­day in Detroit af­ter breaking off dur­ing the week­end.

But union spokesman Brian Rothen­berg said the two sides have come to terms on only 2% of the con­tract. “We’ve got 98% to go,” he said Mon­day.

Wall Street did not like see­ing the pick­ets. GM shares closed down 4.25% to 37.21.

On the picket line Mon­day at GM’s trans­mis­sion plant in Toledo, Ohio, work­ers who said they have been with the com­pany for more than 30 years were con­cerned for younger col­leagues who are mak­ing less money un­der GM’s two-tier wage scale and have fewer ben­e­fits.

Paul Kane, from South Lyon, Michi­gan, a 42-year GM em­ployee, said much of what the union is fight­ing for will not af­fect him.

“It’s not right when you’re work­ing next to some­one, do­ing the same job and they’re mak­ing a lot more money,” he said. “They should be mak­ing the same as me. They’ve got fam­i­lies to sup­port.”

Kane said GM work­ers gave up pay raises and made other con­ces­sions to keep GM afloat dur­ing its 2009 trip through bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion.

“Now it’s their turn to pay us back,” he said. “That was the promise they gave.”

UAW Vice Pres­i­dent Terry Dittes told GM that the com­pany’s lat­est of­fer might have made it pos­si­ble to reach an agree­ment if it had not come just two hours be­fore the union’s con­tract with GM ex­pired on Satur­day night.

In the let­ter to Scott San­de­fur, GM’s vice pres­i­dent of la­bor re­la­tions, Dittes wrote that the com­pany waited too long to make the of­fer. GM is­sued a state­ment say­ing it wants to reach a deal that builds a strong fu­ture for work­ers and the busi­ness.

Dittes wrote that there are many im­por­tant items left in the talks, in­clud­ing wage in­creases, pay for new hires, job se­cu­rity, profit-shar­ing and treat­ment of tem­po­rary work­ers: “We are will­ing to meet as fre­quently, and for as long as it takes, to reach an agree­ment that treats our mem­bers fairly,” he wrote.

GM said Sun­day it of­fered pay raises and $7 bil­lion worth of U.S. fac­tory in­vest­ments re­sult­ing in 5,400 new po­si­tions. The com­pany also said it of­fered higher profit-shar­ing, “na­tion­ally lead­ing” health ben­e­fits and an $8,000 pay­ment to each worker upon rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Be­fore the talks broke off, GM of­fered new prod­ucts to re­place work at two of four U.S. fac­to­ries that it in­tends to close.

The com­pany pledged to build a new all-elec­tric pickup truck at a fac­tory in Detroit, ac­cord­ing to a per­son who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The au­tomaker also of­fered to open an elec­tric ve­hi­cle bat­tery plant in Lord­stown, Ohio, where it has a huge fac­tory that has al­ready stopped mak­ing cars and will be closed.

It’s un­clear how many work­ers the two plants would em­ploy. The clo­sures have be­come is­sues in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has con­sis­tently crit­i­cized the com­pany and de­manded that Lord­stown be re­opened.

The strike shut down 33 man­u­fac­tur­ing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts-dis­tri­bu­tion ware­houses.


Pro­duc­tion work­ers with UAW Lo­cal 2250 picket Mon­day out­side the GM truck as­sem­bly plant in Wentzville, Mo.

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