By on September 16, 2019


Ren Cen. GM

The battle line between General Motors and its unionized American workers takes the form of a picket stretching in front of numerous domestic plants and facilities, after the UAW launched its first strike against the company since 2007.

Strike action commenced a minute before midnight on Sunday, with roughly 49,000 workers walking off the job. In response, GM detailed exactly what it offered the union before contract talks broke down.

Though the collective agreement with GM workers expired Saturday night, UAW leadership waited until Sunday morning to decide the next step. Ultimately, it was a lack of progress on a myriad of issues that prompted the union’s general council to opt for a strike.

“The autoworkers are calling on the Big 3 automaker to recognize the contributions and sacrifices that the company’s UAW members have made to create a healthy, profitable, industry,” the UAW said in a statement. Ford and Fiat Chrysler bargaining units have decided to extend their deadlines as the GM team, first at bat in this latest round of contract talks, plays hardball.

The issues the UAW want movement on relate to wages, healthcare, job security, profit sharing, and “a defined path to permanent seniority” for temp workers. Not to be intimidated, though surely fearful of losses incurred by darkened production facilities, GM fired back, detailing what it had on the table.

General Motors Flint Assembly

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight,” the automaker said in a statement. “We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.”

GM claims it offered up $7 billion in investment over the four-year contract period, as well as the creation of 5,400 U.S. jobs. Among the tidbits were “solutions for unallocated assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio” (Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown Assembly), investments in eight facilities in four states, new vehicle and propulsion programs, and an “opportunity” for a unionized battery cell production site. Wage or lump sum payments would rise each year, it claimed, while workers would see “improved” profit sharing and the addition of “autism therapy care, chiropractic care and allergy testing” to their existing health coverage.

According to a source who spoke to Automotive News, GM’s offer would see the Detroit-Hamtramck facility, currently home to the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 and scheduled for closure in January 2020, give birth to the automaker’s upcoming electric pickup. Lordstown, which went dark earlier this year after building its last Chevrolet Cruze, would become a battery cell manufacturing site.

[Image: General Motors]

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31 Comments on “Day Off Work: GM Workers Hit the Picket Line As UAW Strike Kicks Off...”

  • avatar

    Battle line – more like a circular firing squad.

  • avatar

    You know what’s kind of sad?

    When the UAW goes on strike against GM and the stock market has bigger things to worry about.

    There was a time….

  • avatar

    Let’s see how this shakes out .


  • avatar

    Why doesn’t someone start a new union that: 1) rewards high productivity workers with higher pay and benefits, 2) helps management get rid of slackers and disruptors, 3) seeks to directly link pay and benefit packages to improvements in worker productivity, 4) is politically neutral, doesn’t waste membership dues on political donations, and encourages members to vote for the candidate or their own choice, 5) fires and encourages legal conviction of union management who steal and misuse union funds or otherwise don’t act in a manner that supports the interests of the membership, and 6) uses points 4 and 5 to keep union fees low.

    • 0 avatar

      Hear, hear! As a former UAW (Local 4077) auto worker, I say you nailed it with that comment, stingray65.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the problem with the political aspect is that Unions are political targets one way or another. I’m not sure there is a good way out of that. It may be possible for them to lobby without endorsing however which might at least help.

      On productivity some unions do this actually From what some of my neighbors have told me some of the aero space machinists unions have incentive bonuses based on low QC regection and productivity goals.

    • 0 avatar

      When one of the two major political parties is trying to ban some kinds of unions and break the rest, it’s not realistic to ask a union to be politically neutral.

      A well-governed union does most of the rest of what you ask, except that it won’t condone unsafe or dangerous practices just because they increase productivity. Not every union is the UAW.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Stingray, that will happen right after someone does the same for malingering, incompetent, egotistical, kleptocratic managers and executives.

      The truism taught in all labour relations courses is “you get the union that you deserve”.

      • 0 avatar

        Arthur Dailey,

        Growing up in a ‘right-to-work’ state I was generally exposed to anti-union bias. After a decade working at GM (in Michigan), I understood the UAW’s perspective much better.

  • avatar

    Striking for job security is like eating to lose weight.

  • avatar

    UAW Negotiater: “We accept all your terms, but will need a strike for a day or two anyway to make it look like we’re doing something.”

    GM Negotiater: “If you must”

  • avatar

    UAW still demanding VR headsets so workers don’t have to see the ugly trucks they’re forced to build.

  • avatar

    GM Hourly gross wage. = $33.75
    2016 Profit Sharing

  • avatar

    Let’s try this again

    GM Hourly gross wage. = $33.75
    2016 Profit Sharing $11,000
    2017 – $10,750.
    2018 Profit sharing – $11,750.

    That is about $81,000 / year. For turning an bolt.

    Add to this, GM offered $8000 contract signing bonus.

    These guys make MORE than an hard science – university trained engineer at a non big 3 shop.

    They have no idea how good they have it. THIS IS THE REASON ABOUT 50% OF A GM CAR IS MADE IN CHINA AND MEXICO AND IT S GOING HIGHER.

    They are sick in the head.

    • 0 avatar


      The UAW seems to ignore this fact that as they press for ever better pay and benefits at the assembly plants, they are costing union jobs at the parts plants.

      It was only a few years ago that GM complained that they couldn’t make money on small cars if they built them in the US, which is a plausible argument. But now they don’t make $40k vehicles (Buick Envision, Chevy Blazer) in the US either. The UAW is overreaching

    • 0 avatar

      What does the $33.75 hourly gross wage include? Since it’s a “gross” I assume there must be more than just the straight hourly wage in it? And is that $33.75 the mean, median, or some other rate as not every GM assembly worker is going to make the same wage.

      How many of the 49,000 striking workers make that kind of gross wage?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know what they make now, but when I worked summers at a GM plant in the early 90s they made $23/hour. None of that funny business of “effective wage” or what have you. Straight up $23/hour. Adjust for inflation and I would guess $33.75 is probably just the regular wage.
        That’s not including the annual profit sharing, the medical benefits no one but government workers get anymore and other benefits no other factory workers would every get.
        I will have to say it’s harder to be a D3 employee today than back then though. It’s practically nomadic unless you are high seniority I will bet.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s strange but these wages (and the fact that it forces competitors and similar industries to offer higher wages) drives alot of the economy of places that have them. Years ago I was in a marine industry meeting. One of the guys owned a boat dealership near Toledo. He said he always felt weird voting for GOP for pro business, when 80% of his business was union Auto workers buying a new boat every 3-5 years.
      After this comment I was having a conversation with a friend who grew up in a union town and reflecting on his and my own experiences, it seems possible the union members spend more of their income on the consumer economy then people with other backgrounds with the same income. I’m actually curious if you ran a study on that how it would turn out.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Studies demonstrate that ‘working class’ workers as well as those with lower incomes spend more of their income ‘close to home’. Increasing their disposable income increases the prosperity of the local economy.

        Whereas increasing the income of the ‘wealthy’ (insert your own definition) results, if they increase their spending, on spending in foreign markets, or on imported products. And possibly purchasing 2nd or 3rd residences, thus driving up housing prices.

    • 0 avatar

      The gross hourly wage you cite is top rate, for a small percentage of assembly workers. The median (half get more, half get less) hourly wage is $19.91, and some workers get $13.

      That means half the union workers get $41,400 and the profit sharing lump sum gets them up to a little over $53,000. Median full time hourly workers earned about $900/week, or about $46,800/year.

      Given that the median household income is $63,688, somebody else in the household has to be bringing in thousands more. IOW, auto workers aren’t exactly rolling in excess cash.

  • avatar

    Barra – what a disgrace.

  • avatar

    From a 13 September 2019 article:

    ”GM on average pays $63 an hour for its factory workers, while Ford pays $61 and Fiat Chrysler is at $55. That compares with $50 per hour for nonunionized employees at foreign automakers with factories in the U.S.”

    “According to the Center for Automotive Research, GM’s labor costs per vehicle last year [2018] were $2,700 – about $100 more than Ford and $180 higher than Fiat Chrysler.”

    “Under the current four-year deals, the automakers have paid more than $4 billion in profit-sharing bonuses to UAW members. The record payments, which are based on each company’s annual earnings in North America, have averaged roughly $20,500 per worker at Fiat Chrysler, $33,400 at Ford and $45,500 for GM since 2015.”

    “Despite ballooning health-care costs for many Americans and companies, UAW members with the Detroit automakers have retained a golden parachute when it comes to medical coverage.

    “With little or no co-pays or deductibles, the auto workers only pay roughly 3% of their costs. That compares with the automakers’ salaried workers, who pay roughly 20% to 30%, and the average U.S. worker at 28%, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.”

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Thanks. Two key points. 1) ‘universal’ ‘socialized’ medical care which is available in nearly every 1st world nation except the USA actually reduces employer costs. 2) The labour cost of manufacturing an auto for the D3 ranges from $2,700 to $2,520 (on average). So even a 10% increase in wages/costs would result in a price increase on new cars, per car of, on average $270.

      • 0 avatar

        I seem to recall at some point Warren Buffet basically stated that if the US medical costs reached 20% of GDP (they are near 18% now) that employers with large labor costs would actually start advocating for socialized medicine as it would save them money.
        I know at one point someone at GM mentioned some product going to Canada over the US due to medical costs.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          For years what kept Oshawa (and Oakville, Windsor and Brampton) busy was that the cost of labour was much lower in Ontario than in the USA.

          That was due to a) the employer not having to pay for exorbitant private medical coverage b) the exchange rate, and c) higher quality/productivity levels in Ontario, particularly Oshawa.

          As mentioned when the closure of Oshawa was announced, if the workers regularly exhibiting the highest quality cannot guarantee their jobs, then quality is not high on management’s agenda.

    • 0 avatar

      One little detail: That’s a total labor expense, including social security/medicare match, liability insurance, and a form of unemployment insurance negotiated with the union, instead of a state unemployment insurance premium, and health care/retirement. The health and other benefits in the package are good, but they don’t get paid that much.

  • avatar

    I hope the workers built up their savings – getting something like $250 a week to not work, versus probably $300/day while working is quite a pay cut. Really, all GM has to do is wait, what, 3 weeks? and the workers will want to come back, so they can afford groceries!

    I worked for a union once, that offered strike pay of $50/week – almost all the workers refused to strike, cause we couldn’t afford it. With the UAW striking, how much you want to bet the union execs are still collecting their full wage…

  • avatar

    Apparently the main thing is that when the union agreed to the two-tier wage system — which is really three-tier because it also includes temps — they thought it was a temporary measure to rescue the company. It’s hard to maintain union solidarity when your buddy doesn’t have the same benefits and pay as you because he was hired just a month later, and the next guy over makes half of what either of you do without benefits or job security.

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