Union Auto Workers Go On Strike Against General Motors

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Union Auto Workers Go On Strike Against General Motors

Emily Chen, Staff Writer

On Sept. 16, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union went on strike against General Motors (GM) in demand of higher wages and in response to the company’s announcement that it would be shutting down several of its assembly plants. The workers sought job security, better pay, and healthcare benefits from the company. The strike involves close to 50,000 employees from 52 different GM facilities, making it the largest union strike against a business in over a decade.

In November 2018, GM announced that it would be shutting down several of its plants in order to save money. Among them were the assembly plants in Detroit, Michigan, and Lordstown, Ohio; and the transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and Baltimore, Maryland. The plants being targeted manufacture parts for cars that are declining in popularity, such as the Chevrolet Volt, Impala, and Cruze; the Buick LaCrosse; and the Cadillac CT6 and XTS. The company does not plan to continue producing these vehicles.

The UAW claimed that GM had been putting profits ahead of the wellbeing of its workers, which it claimed was especially hurtful because those workers helped GM recover after it went through bankruptcy and federal bailout in 2009. The union’s main focus was to keep the manufacturing plants open. It also sought higher hourly wages, a better profit-sharing plan, lump-sum payments, and better healthcare benefits for employees. Additionally, it wanted GM to offer clearer paths to permanent employment and to put a limit on the use of temporary workers.

In response to the UAW strike, GM offered a 2% wage increase, profit-sharing, an investment to preserve and create jobs, and a promise to find a “solution” for two out of the four closing assembly plants. The solution called for a new electric truck to be built at the plant in Detroit and for batteries for electric vehicles to be built at the plant in Lordstown. If the UAW were to accept GM’s offer, work would likely restart at the two plants within the next four years.

On Sept 17, the second day of the strike, GM stopped paying for existing healthcare benefits for its workers. The company stated, “While on strike, some benefits shift to being funded by the union’s strike fund, and in this case, hourly employees are eligible for union-paid [healthcare coverage] so their healthcare benefits can continue.” 

Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who specializes in labor, said that GM has “been most successful when they’ve tried to work together with the UAW.” 

The union has yet to accept any of GM’s offers. The strike is still ongoing.

 

Photo courtesy of THENATIONALINTEREST.ORG