By on October 14, 2019

Few expected the labor action by U.S. General Motors workers to last this long, but no one expected reaching a collective agreement to be easy, either. As the the strike by UAW-affiliated GM workers enters its fifth week, picketing workers can expect an extra $25 a week from the union’s strike fund.

GM, on the other hand, can expect its dealers to face increased difficulty in sourcing certain replacement parts, while others worry about the prospect of subpar inventory.

As reported by CNN, the UAW’s bargaining team presented a new comprehensive offer to GM on Friday, with both sides engaged in talks through the weekend. Monday dawned with no word on any movement on the issue.

In addition to the marginally boosted strike pay, the UAW also lifted the cap on cash earned at outside jobs. Starting Sunday, workers moonlighting at other jobs can keep the full strike payment, regardless of what they made in their alternate gig. Strike payments are typically clawed back on a dollar-for-dollar basis after the worker passes the $250 threshold.

In a new tactic, striking workers might start leafletting GM dealers today, a source told CNN.

In addition to a host of other issues, health care sits near the top of UAW concerns in this latest round of bargaining. With GM and other Detroit Three automakers looking to slim down in an era of shrinking auto sales and economic uncertainty, offering generous health benefits represents a major cost to each company. None more so than Ford, which employs the most hourly workers of the three.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, an agreement reached between GM and the UAW that keeps the previous health care arrangement intact would have financial repercussions for Ford. Too keep an agreement where workers cover just 3 percent of their health care costs — an agreement GM briefly abandoned earlier in the bargaining process — the automakers would undoubtedly seek concessions in other areas. Unions are not prone to accept concessions lightly.

Indeed, in its last letter to members (dated October 4th), UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said “we have made good progress regarding the issues of health care and a path for temporary employees becoming seniority members.” That was 10 days ago.

Whatever deal the bargaining teams of GM and UAW reach, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will be compelled to offer a contract agreement that matches certain key elements of the GM pact. Health care is one of those elements.

“We are focused on reaching a fair agreement with the UAW that allows Ford to be more competitive so we can continue to preserve and protect good-paying manufacturing jobs and maintain our track record of investing in our U.S. plants,” said Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker in response to a Freep inquiry about the likelihood of keeping the health care status quo.

[Image: General Motors]

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19 Comments on “GM Strike Enters Fifth Week; UAW Boosts Strike Pay...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Few expected the labor action by U.S. General Motors workers to last this long”

    Two weeks ago I predicted Halloween or Thanksgiving:

    GM doesn’t need to settle quickly.

    If GM caves on the health care contribution, it will be at the expense of head count. 3% is unheard of and unsustainable.

    As for the dealers, remember that they are not captive to GM. Those dealers may be considering other brands to bring in that they *can* sell, should their GM inventory run dry.

    “Strike payments are typically clawed back on a dollar-for-dollar basis after the worker passes the $250 threshold” What?! So the union wants to keep its members hungry and angry?

    • 0 avatar

      The union also wouldn’t let their workers take part time jobs to make ends meet until this week either. Granted, I assume quite a few do anyway, but it’s almost like the Union isn’t looking out for the workers best interest!

    • 0 avatar

      Two weeks in you predicted it would “last longer?”

      Way to go out on a limb.

      “After searching his house, man predicts item ‘won’t be easy to find.\'”

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        That’s not what I said, since you’re using quotes.

        I said it when the strike was only 2 weeks old, 2 weeks ago. Only the editors of TTAC seem surprised by the length of this strike.

  • avatar

    Health care costs are unsustainable for the nation as a whole. It is a shame that the UAW cannot wrap their heads around this. There are no safe health care plans anymore. In order to keep costs down, employers have been reducing benefits, adding employee contributions for quite some time. There is really no reason that the UAW should be any different.

    Inflation has held pretty steady at about 2% for the past few decades. Health care costs over the past 20 years have increased by more than 200% (quick google search). A full fifth of this country’s GDP is devoted to heath care. There is no business that can sustain these costs. Even the government cannot sustain this indefinitely. The UAW gave up nothing in the 2008 taxpayer funded bankruptcy/bailout. They were literally the only party that didn’t take a haircut on the deal. Its time they finally gave some concessions.

    • 0 avatar

      Why is it that your approach involves cutting demand, instead of fixing the supply side of the equation?

      “Don’t get sick,” or “save more if you plan to” isn’t going to cut it for most people. Better to ask “does this bag of saline solution really need to cost $100?”

      Nothing wrong with workers fighting for what’s happening right now in front of their faces. Better than laying down and accepting a dystopian world where they accept less healthcare spending in some sort of conservative economic experiment to see if “starving people of healthcare funds fixes the problem.”

  • avatar

    Caterpillar fought the UAW In 1995….and won. It took a 17 month strike but it has saved Caterpillar from the fate of the Detroit Carmakers. It’s possible that GM has chosen this moment to make their own “last stand”.

    The company wants to close several plants anyway and a prolonged strike just might be an easy way to get there.

    • 0 avatar

      I sure hope that GM plays this to the max! Let’s get this whole organized labor versus their employers shake out and settled by breaking one or all of the parties involved.

      If employees are not happy with their working conditions and bennies, they should walk.

      I’m no longer a GM fan, but I find myself rooting for Ms Barra because she’s got nothing to lose by driving the UAW into oblivion. GM will never go bankrupt because it has the full faith and credit of the US Gov’t behind it. Been that way since 2009.

      The UAW has………nothing………..behind it, in spite of President Trump being pro-union and pro-UAW.

      • 0 avatar

        @ highdesertcat:

        It must really kill you that the entirety of the German manufacturing sector is unionized. Maybe Germans are “better people” than our own American workers?

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I am going to reverse Charles E Sorensen’S famous dictum:

    What is good for the USA, *should also be* good for GM.

    If the rest of the USA are now very carefully managing our healthcare situation, GM workers in particular, and UAW workers in general also should.

  • avatar

    Unlike her predecessors, Barra has shown she can make the tough decisions needed to ensure the long term health of the company (e.g. selling money pit Opel).

    At the same time, union leadership wants a win to distract from their corruption scandal and try to earn their worth in the eyes of their members.

    It could be a long one.

    • 0 avatar

      Corruption within union(s) predates Jimmy Hoffa.

      It’s expected.

      I hope Ms Barra is tough enough to see this strike to its bitter end. She cannot lose. GM, the Corporation, will survive, even if it takes another taxpayer-funded bailout to make it so.

  • avatar

    it’s the members’ money in the strike fund. at $500/week they could afford to pay for over a year. what are these corrupt UAW leaders planning, another Palm Springs trip? they spent more than $275 apiece on dinner, let alone booze, cigars, and golf clubs. people are hurting, release the money to the people who put it there!

    • 0 avatar

      It was mentioned on CNBC and Bloomberg today that for many striking UAW members the bills are coming due on mortgages, premiums, car payments, etc.

      Where GM has lost $1.13BILLION so far, GM is widely expected to recoup all of that and more.

      But where the UAW members have lost many millions in wages so far, it is expected that they will recoup NONE of those losses.

      I would appreciate your insight on how that actually works, as in “Do UAW workers get their back-pay from when they were on strike?”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I doubt GM will settle anytime soon and as for Barra doing anything that is good for GM that is doubtful more likely doing what is good for her and the board. GM will eventually become more Chinese and with that it will not have to deal with unions. Wouldn’t surprise me if GM became a totally owned Chinese corporation. As for Trump supporting unions that is not at all true it is more that he is campaigning on keeping more jobs in the US–there is nothing said about union jobs just more US jobs.

    Less and less people are affected by auto strikes or really any union strikes not like they were 30 to 40 years ago and GM knows this.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Buickman–I am in the process of buying a 2012 Lacrosse with 45k miles which is immaculate inside and outside for 11k from my neighbor. Just signed the title over on my 99 S-10 to my nephew a truck that I have had for 20 1/2 years which still looks and runs like new.

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