By on September 20, 2019

General Motors Renaissance Center

The first strike action by unionized General Motors workers since before the recession has entered its fifth day, with bargaining teams from both sides claiming progress on a number of issues. That said, reaching a tentative deal reached before the weekend is a long shot.

With American GM plants free of workers, the shutdown of the automaker’s manufacturing landscape has sent shock waves across the border and into Canada, where many workers are now “enjoying” a unexpected late-summer vacation.

According to Automotive News, both sides spent Thursday in talks and planned to resume negotiations on Friday. Already, the strike has lasted more than twice as long as the 2007 strike. It didn’t go unnoticed by some workers.

“It’s already twice as long. That one we went out, and a couple days later, we were back. This one, it’s hard to say,” said Bill Duford, a UAW member picketing outside GM’s Romulus, Mich., transmission plant on Thursday. This time around, things are “completely different,” he added.

In a letter to members, Terry Dittes, vice president in charge of the UAW’s GM department, said the union has been working overtime to ensure negotiations ultimately land in their members’ favor. “The process of meeting in subcommittees and main tables will continue this weekend and beyond, if a Tentative Agreement is not reached,” he wrote.

As we told you yesterday, the idling of so many GM plants in the U.S. has forced some Canadian operations to throw in the towel. Some 1,200 or more workers were temporarily laid off at GM Canada’s Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant earlier this week. Several hundred workers at GM’s St. Catharines, Ontario propulsion plant are expected to receive pink slips on Friday.

Despite some progress in the talks, there’s agreements yet to be reached between the two sides. GM angered the UAW before talks broke off by making an offer in which workers would pay considerably more for their health care costs. It quickly retracted the offer, but other issues remain. One of those sticking points seems to be Mexico.

Speaking to FOX Business, UAW picket captain Moshee Edwards said, “I would like to see more cars built here in America because it doesn’t just affect us, it affects our communities outside of this plant as well. There are so many smaller communities, so many businesses that rely on us.”

Lingering resentment remains from GM’s decision to build the new Chevrolet Blazer in a Mexican facility, rather than earmark its production for an underutilized American plant. This move even earned GM a short-lived boycott on Mexican-made vehicles from Canadian Detroit Three auto worker union Unifor.

These issues, as well as those relating to wages, lump sum pay, and temporary worker benefits, will continue plaguing negotiating teams on both sides. In the meantime, GM is losing $50 million to $90 million per day as the strike drags on, depending on which analyst you speak to.

[Image: General Motors]

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17 Comments on “The Price of Progress: GM and UAW Inch Closer to a Deal As Strike Disrupts Operations Across North America...”


  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Quite a mess here. In short:

    GM’s management is too greedy.

    I read somewhere GM CEO makes 281x the average employee. Does that include Mexican workers, or just US? Either way, something is wrong (this is sadly typical in the USA for the past 15 years). What did GM’s CEO and leaders make in the 1960s, when GM was like Apple, GE, and Toyota at their best–all at the same time? Not 200x for sure. I think Socrates said the spread should be 10x. Wise man.

    When ‘classical conservatives’ and socialist/communists agree that easy money and greed have skewed things in such a way that, since the 1970s, the VAST majority of economic growth has benefited the top 1% to 5% and bypassed everyone, we have a problem. As a bailed out company, GM’s leaders should show some modesty and make less. But I digress…

    Average GM worker makes the same or less than 10 years ago. Last time I looked, my insurance and food costs are significantly higher thatn 10 years ago.

    On the other hand, UAW leadership credibility is rather poor in light of recent corruption allegations and CONVICTIONS. So, since they can’t sell an agreement, they are forced to ‘look tough’. What’s interesting is, did the money they spent lavishly come from union dues OR the companies they negotiated with?

    The longer this goes on, the more damaging it is to all parties. But the people who will suffer the most are the workers and vast legions of salaried employees. GM’s leaders will make lots, and the union heads will make lots (unless they are convicted, of course).

    Good luck.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Navistar in Springfield, Ohio, will be shutting down a couple lines due to lack of parts from GM.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    How long until this affects aftermarket parts availability for 1988-1998 GMT400 pickup?

    Oh – nevermind. Carry on.

  • avatar

    I heard that striking workers now are on COBRA – GM refused to pay health insurance premiums. If you don’t know what is COBRA – it is around $2000 a month for family of two. Hopefully Union pays premiums. 90K a year and 10K profit sharing bonus is not enough? What they want to get paid as engineers in Silicon Valley? Engineers do not have Union BTW. May be the Union is the problem?

    I agree though about overinflated compensation for higher management who do not deserve in most cases.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “GM refused to pay health insurance premiums.”

      Of course.

      thetruthaboutcars.com/2019/08/shareholders-no-longer-riding-shotgun-say-american-automakers/

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      When I got laid off from Norwood, Ohio (camaro plant) back in 87, I called about getting Cobra, i was told over $500/mo, we did without health insurance until i rehired in at Saturn in 91, hanging commercial wallcovering paid good when I had work, nothing when I didn’t!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Assemblers don’t get $90K a year. The pay ranges from $13/hr to $31/hr, with the median at just under $20/hr. A registered civil engineer working in a state civil service gets $88k-$96K.

      No UAW line worker makes that much. They get good benefits, and those benefits cost the automakers a lot of money, but the line workers don’t get anywhere near that in their paychecks.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    “Ontario propulsion plant are expected to receive pink slips on Friday.” Pink slips? I thought a “pink slip” meant your fired, what, Canada doesn’t lay off with benefits? Even striking workers get a dollar amount, small but better than nothing!This contract will get resolved, the next one in 2023 is going to be a cliff hanger when more and more jobs are lost due to BEV’s gaining ground!

  • avatar

    This strike is going to last at least a 50 days. The workers are misguided if they believe that Barra’s vaporware electric truck is going to save theirs jobs. As for electric vehicles a few pundits have mentioned GM only sells about a 1000 Bolts a month. Why does Barra predict an electrification future for GM when the company can barely move 15,000 Bolts a year. Heck, the Fiat 500 outsells the Bolt! In summation Barra electrification agenda for GM does not ring true. In fact based on current and projected sales data it makes no sense at all.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    akear – “GM Is Planning Electric Cars That Won’t Give Buyers Sticker Shock, General Motors President Says”
    https://fortune.com/2019/06/05/gm-electric-cars/

    20 EV’s by 2023, this will be a game changer for the 2023 contract!

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Charging infrastructure? Ten years out.

    MTB is looking to sell electric to the Lyft and Uber. There, the business model might work. She’s also counting on government to incentivize electric and penalize gasoline powered cars, to “help us transition to clean electric to save the planet”. (No word on how the electricity will be generated or how the grid will handle it—more government intervention needed)

    I agree with akears, electric cars aren’t profitable; certainly not enough to feed the general.

    If her gamble pays off, she will be hailed as a visionary, like Iacocca and Sloan and Ford. If not, who cares? She will easily have made $100 million, just as CEO, with a nice pension to boot. She might make the history books—but possibly as GM’s last CEO.

    Just being CEO is not enough.

    I can’t see the strike lasting 50 days. The UAW leadership’s credibility issues mean that a long strike will lead to them being voted out, can’t have that…

    I heard an earful from my barber about the UAW today, and the record high price of a new car. They are not the cause of that now—in 1970, yes.

    On the other hand, why does GM, indeed al the Detroit Three, allow the types of abuses in plants, like absenteeism, substance abuse, even physical abuse to be protected by the UAW? That will probably continue.. sweeteners to entice the UAW to accede to less money, but which make it harder to run a plant (which is hard enough on a good day with good people)

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “I’ll believe it when I see it. Charging infrastructure? Ten years out.”

      In some areas, it’s pretty good. Nationwide, it has a ways to go but isn’t bad. I’d put it at 5 years. Not 10.

      “No word on how the electricity will be generated or how the grid will handle it—more government intervention needed”

      Not true. Grid storage and expansion of renewables. It for damned sure is being talked about and implemented. Renewables are getting cheaper and their use is growing.

      ” agree with akears, electric cars aren’t profitable;” Actually, they are. Maybe not for under $40k yet, but battery prices continue to fall and the technology is improving every year. By 2025, EVs should be profitable at the low end.

      BTW, Daimler is ending development of ICE engines. More companies will follow. ICE technology won’t be able to compete with EVs soon and in some areas, it’ll start getting tougher to find gas stations and repair service. ICE owners will learn all about range anxiety as we get closer to 2030. It’ll be worse because the pump that works this week may be dry the next week. Get ready.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Expansion of renewables. Go ahead, expand them.

    Presently, they cost more than conventional electricity generation. If they didn’t, we would use more.

    Since they cost more, people must pay more. Leaving less money to spend on other things.

    As to the strike, here’s a fair equitable way to end it:

    GM will stop using temps.

    In return, the UAW workers will pay (a still good) 15% of their healthcare vs 2%. That’s still a good deal.

    Both side give up something and gain something. This has good optics

    GM will commit to maintaining the current percent of US output, or some such scheme that the UAW can stomach.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    “What UAW workers really want”

    https://www.autonews.com/manufacturing/what-uaw-workers-really-want

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Thanks Redgolf

    The temps are a thorn in the side of the UAW.

    Equal pay for equal work. Hard to argue with that.

    The workers made wage concessions and their real wages have dropped—but does that include the $10k profit sharing? As to health care, a higher percent paid by employees is consistent with modern America, for better or worse.

    So I think I’m onto something:

    End the temps, increase employees share of healthcare costs

    Of course, the transplants do the same things. They have temps—in Japan. Those temps don’t get the same pay and benefits as company workers. Ironically, “love Subaru” probably has the most egregious track record.

    And that’s the thing…the Democratic presidential candidates can join the picket lines and single out GM, but what about these practices by transplants? And I understand the Detroit three, even with older plants and workers, have better safety records

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    First they came foe the brainwashed union haters and I did nothing….

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