Hours after a four-year contract between the United Automobile Workers and General Motors expired without an extension, the union voted to kick off a nationwide strike against the automaker at 11:59 pm Sunday. The move would leave plants darkened and upwards of 49,000 auto workers on the picket line.
In a letter to members, UAW leadership said that while “some progress” has been made in its negotiations with GM, numerous outstanding issues remain — among them, wages, health benefits, temporary employees, job security, and profit sharing.
Given a number of looming or already completed plant closures announced by GM last fall, the union picked the automaker as its first bargaining target. UAW bargaining units for Ford and Fiat Chrysler opted to extend their deadlines.
Following a meeting of the UAW’s national council Sunday morning, the union issued the following statement to Automotive News:
UAW helped rebuild General Motors when they were near extinction, now they’ve reached record level profits. If GM refuses to give even an inch to help hard-working UAW members and their families then we’ll see them on the picket lines tonight.
Late Saturday, after the union decided to proceed without a contract pending a decision from council, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes stated, “While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years. We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”
At the same time, GM issued the following:
We continue to work hard on solutions to some very difficult challenges. We are prepared to negotiate around the clock because there are thousands of GM families and their communities – and many thousands more at our dealerships and suppliers – counting on us for their livelihood. Our goal remains on building a strong future for our employees and our business.
The strike vote comes in the midst of a broad streamlining effort on the part of GM, which hopes to cut its capital spending by $1.5 billion per year. Last November, the automaker announced a 25-percent reduction of its executive ranks and the mothballing of five North American plants — four of them located in the United States. With this announcement came a death sentence for the Chevrolet Cruze, Volt, and Impala, the Buick LaCrosse, and the Cadillac CT6, as well as an uprooting of many Midwestern lives.
A nationwide strike would put the brakes on production of GM’s most profitable models: full-size and heavy-duty trucks. In 2007, the last time UAW workers walked out of GM plants, the automaker incurred losses of $300 million per day, CNBC reports.
In a press conference held Sunday morning in Detroit, Dittes called the strike action a “last resort,” with a union spokesman claiming that more than 200 local union leaders voted unanimously for the measure.
[Image: General Motors]
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