The Union Vs the General: Battle Continues As Strike Hits Day Three

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
the union vs the general battle continues as strike hits day three

The United Auto Workers and General Motors are seeking to repair their fractured relationship, sitting down for talks as the union’s strike against its first bargaining partner enters its third day. Workers walked off the job at the automaker’s numerous U.S. plants at midnight Sunday, with the UAW complaining that a last-minute offer should have been put on the table far earlier.

As reported before, health coverage played a big role in the failure to secure a contract agreement before the midnight deadline. GM ultimately retracted the offer, but it was too late to hammer something out. As talks continue in the background, both sides are wrestling for control of the public’s sympathies.

In a tweet, GM said its “goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for everyone,” bemoaning the work stoppage’s impact on families and the economy. As you’d expect, the UAW’s take is that GM’s healthy profits aren’t trickling down to the men and women who make that black ink possible.

“We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we need GM to stand with us and invest in the healthcare we deserve,” the union stated in a tweet of its own. “Working in the plant takes a toll on our bodies, so quality healthcare and affordable prescriptions are an investment in us!”

The automaker had originally proposed that UAW workers pay 15 percent of their health costs, up from 3 or 4 percent, before having a change of heart. UAW rep Jason Kaplantold FOX Business Wednesday that the cutting of workers’ healthcare coverage during the strike (a tab picked up by the union’s strike fund) was a tactic to draw “unfair concessions” from its bargaining partner. The move is standard operating procedure during a strike, GM countered.

While roughly 49,000 GM workers are making themselves heard on the picket line (and making access to other GM sites a hassle), Fiat Chrysler workers have shown up in their off hours. Cindy Estrada, UAW’s vice president and head of its FCA department, gave a shout-out to members from GM’s rival who are “standing up to corporate greed.”

In response, GM set up a webpage showing its effort to employ Americans, slathering the page in varying shades of blue. Blue… collar. Get it? It’s also the color of the party whose presidential candidates fell over each other on social media to be first to cheer the striking workers.

Of course, besides healthcare, GM workers demand assurances from their employer about another pressing issue: job security. Lordstown Assembly went dark earlier this year, with Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly scheduled to do the same in January. No worker wants this to happen. While GM did make an offer to utilize those plants, stating before talks broke off that it would use Detroit-Hamtramck for a future electric pickup and Lordstown for battery cell production (while still entertaining offers for the space), it’s unlikely those products would boast enough volume and manpower to employ the full complement of workers displaced by last November’s plant cull announcement.

The talks continue.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Sep 18, 2019

    "...both sides are wrestling for control of the public’s sympathies." Well then that is a fail. I don't really care about either side. It is 2019, both sides honestly have it better than most.

  • Cprescott Cprescott on Sep 19, 2019

    It is laughable for the UAW to say they gave up anything during the bankruptcy era of Government Motors. You see, the truth is that these union thugs were given preferential treatment by the Obama administration ahead of bond and shareholders and the UAW retirement area was made nearly whole. This was an outrageous action that should not have been allowed - the people with skin in the game, the bond and shareholders should always have had their place in getting their share of the money from the bankrupt company. The union had no such legal claim EVER. And now the union is whining. I hope they drive this company into the ground for good.

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