The Price of Progress: GM and UAW Inch Closer to a Deal As Strike Disrupts Operations Across North America

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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3 of 17 comments
  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Sep 22, 2019

    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

  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Sep 24, 2019

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

  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.
  • Probert When I hear the word "patriot", I think of entitled hateful whining ignorant traitors to democracy. But hey , meant to say "Pass the salt."