By on September 27, 2019

As reports point to progress in efforts by General Motors and the UAW to reach a tentative collective agreement and resolve the now 12-day-long strike, the automaker has removed a contentious element of the drama. Announced Thursday, GM will resume covering workers’ health benefits.

GM withdrew the coverage early into the strike, forcing hourly workers to go through their union to fund temporary COBRA plans. As one would expect, GM’s about-face hasn’t left UAW all smiles.

In a letter from a GM labor official to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes outlined by CNBC, the automaker says it backtracked after seeing the “significant confusion” that resulted from its move. At the time, GM said the practice of removing coverage from striking workers was standard operating procedure. It would seem this latest move is more of a goodwill gesture than a realization of error.

After all, a dwindling UAW strike fund would serve to boost GM’s bargaining position. Cynical thinking? Maybe.

Certainly, Dittes wasn’t in a mood to thank GM for its graciousness. In a letter fired back at Scott Sandefur, GM’s North American VP of labor relations, Dittes chastised the automaker for its initial callousness.

The letter, in part, reads:

On Monday, September 16, 2019, I wrote to you via email to get a status update regarding our Members’ health care. On Tuesday, September 17, 2019, you provided an answer that our striking members and their families no longer had health care coverage. You also wrote, “Our employees should be eligible for COBRA paid for by the UAW fund so that their health care benefits can continue.” The same day you informed me that health care was no longer in effect I sent correspondence to all UAW Local Leadership informing them of such.

Finally, a week after terminating benefits, you write me a letter dated Wednesday, September 25, 2019, and received on Thursday, September 26, 2019, stating, “GM has chosen to work with our providers to keep all benefits fully in place for striking hourly employees.”

These irresponsible actions by General Motors are toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of our UAW families.

Late Wednesday, Dittes told UAW members that negotiations were progressing, claiming, “All unsettled proposals are now at the Main Table and have been presented to General Motors, and we are awaiting their response.”

On the ground, GM dealers claim that, while their stock of new vehicles remains sufficient to tide them over, the supply of replacement parts is already dwindling. Many dealerships report a backlog of customers awaiting custom-order parts.

[Image: James R. Martin/Shutterstock]

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18 Comments on “Striking UAW Workers’ Healthcare Now Back on GM’s Tab...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Somehow I get the impression that once this strike is settled, the UAW members will go back to work, but GM management will have destroyed any regard the UAW members had left for the company or its managers. Just what GM needs – a hostile workforce that holds management in total disgust.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      “Just what GM needs – a hostile workforce that holds management in total disgust.”

      So since the 1970’s when has this not been the case other than maybe at Spring Hill in the early Saturn days?

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        This is a situation where both sides are right to hate one another. GM management has been managing GM’s transition to being a Chinese company with a huge US distribution arm for years, and that’s got to unsettle the laborers. On the other hand, I saw a UAW picket line on TV last night. They shouldn’t picket, because we’ve all been conditioned not to care about the plights of morbidly obese people who think they work too hard. Man boobs resting on beer bellies under red T-shirts isn’t a look I recommend. Laughter broke out among the football watching crowd, and they’re obviously not particularly principled conservative types.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Lorenzo

      The workers may be a little upset with GM management, but at least they don’t have to drive Toyotas to work everyday.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s a leap of logic to assume that talks are progressing just because GM decided to continue paying health care. This move may simply be a way to keep potential violence at bay, and maybe the lawyers.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    Let me see if I have this right….GM decides to give the striking employees back their healthcare….and the union is ticked off?
    Perhaps they should refuse to use the healthcare.

  • avatar

    This is one of the rare times in history were both political parties are on the side of the workers.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The Democrats have dropped their support for open borders and regulations that promote offshoring jobs?

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        The Democrats will invest in rail transportation as well. Considering I was just sitting in traffic for the last hour. Much of it caused by OTR tractor trailers. More money for rail roads gets my vote.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Rail isn’t a panacea if it’s not going to the right places. It’s also obscenely expensive….

          https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Train-to-nowhere-Here-s-how-high-speed-project-13621347.php

          • 0 avatar
            Peter Gazis

            Jkross22

            1.Train tracks cost less than roads to build.
            2. They already go to most major cities.
            3. Moving freight by rail costs less than moving freight by truck.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I also agree with rail funding but where did the DNC say it was in favor of it? I’m generally not up on their propaganda but I feel like this is something I should have seen before.

          • 0 avatar
            Peter Gazis

            28-cars-later

            Railroads create high wage union jobs, and create less traffic and less pollution than trucks to move goods. Of course the Democrats are for investing in rail. It’s part of their infrastructure plans.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Do you have a source for that Peter? I don’t ask to be a prick, it’s just that I hadn’t heard of them supporting rail as you describe so I went and looked for a bit and I still haven’t heard. Plenty of them (and some Republicans) pushing light rail to move passengers, but nobody talking about freight. Frankly I think the nation is pretty well served in that respect already, as you pointed out.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I also agree with rail funding but where did the DNC say it was in favor of it? I’m generally not up on their propaganda but I feel like this is something I should have seen before.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Stopping healthcare for a moment was merely a shot across the bow to remind UAW workers how good they have it already. It’s from the same hardball playbook as announcing closure of several plants before the strike. Instead of fighting to get more, the Union has to focus on fighting keep what it has now.

    Job security at unprofitable plants, free healthcare, or wage increases. Choose one.

    As for antagonizing the workers/union…. nothing GM could do would make them happy, so why even bother to try? The relationship is an antagonistic one, has been since the 70’s, and isn’t going to change.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “As for antagonizing the workers/union…. nothing GM could do would make them happy”

      The UAW carries with them into the negotiations the battle ax of the bailouts, handouts and nationalization of GM in 2009, all to keep them working for putting their guy in the White House in 2008.

      The US gov’t is not going to let GM fail, no matter who is in the White House or who runs the Hill.

      A number of US taxpayers have decided that buying from a UAW automaker is a losing transaction for the US taxpayers and have voted with their wallet and their feet in favor of any one of the excellent non-union automakers in the right-to-work South.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    You know what they say: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds the health care system which is profiting from your chronic conditions while actively working to kill you with medical errors.”

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