General Motors Feeling the Squeeze as Auto Workers' Strike Enters Third Week

Photo: Matt Rourke (AP)

The United Automobile Workers union continues to negotiate with General Motors for improved work conditions. More than 48,000 workers have been on strike in the U.S. since Sept. 16 over wages, healthcare, and job security. On Tuesday, the union submitted a counterproposal for a contract deal.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said Tuesday the union was “awaiting GM’s next proposal to the union,” because the company’s proposal did not meet the workers’ needs.

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“We remain committed, however, to exploring all options in order to reach an agreement that meets the needs of our membership,” Dittes said. Workers are receiving $250 a week in strike wages out of the union’s strike fund.

General Motors also said it temporarily laid off 6,000 workers on Tuesday in Silao, Mexico, idling production of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks.

Dan Flores, a GM spokesman, linked the changes in Mexico to the U.S. negotiations. “Production at GM’s Silao assembly and transmission plants has been disrupted as a result of part shortages related to the UAW strike,” he said.

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Last week, the company temporarily laid off about 4,500 workers in Canada, according to Jerry Dias, president of Canadian trade union Unifor.

“People are very supportive. People are furious with General Motors here in Canada, just like they are in the United States,” Dias said, adding that “people feel betrayed.”

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Strikes are expensive for the companies involved. J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brickman estimated GM lost $1 billion during the third quarter as the workers walked off the job. The Anderson Economic Group estimated the strike was costing the company $25 million a day. It would certainly be more financially responsible to give workers fair conditions from the start, avoiding a strike altogether.

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GM said in a statement: “We continue to negotiate and exchange proposals, and remain committed to reaching an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our company.”

Tim O’Hara, president of Local 1112 for an assembly plant that was idled in March, told the Detroit Free Press that he was determined to see GM meet the union’s demands.

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“We’re in it for the long haul,” he said. “We want a fair and equitable contract for our membership. This strike has been coming for a long time. The company was bailed out by the American taxpayer and we took concessions and now that GM is back on their feet, making billions, we’re not asking for the world. We’re just asking for a fair contract for our members.”

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