United Auto Workers Authorize a Strike

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, left, and General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra sit to open their contract talks in Detroit, Tuesday, July 16, 2019.
Photo: Paul Sancya (AP)

The United Auto Workers voted to authorize a strike amid contract negotiations. The union represents about 150,000 workers at Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with GM as the target of the bargaining.

According to the UAW, more than 96 percent of the union members voted to allow a potential strike. The workers’ current contracts expire September 14.

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“We are focused. We are prepared and we are all ready to stand up for our members, our communities and our manufacturing future,” said UAW President Gary Jones.

“No one goes into collective bargaining taking a strike lightly. But it is a key tool in the tool belt as our bargaining team sits across from the company,” Jones added.

In 2018, GM CEO Mary Barra earned $21.87 million, about 281 times as much as the median employee at the company earns. In February, GM eliminated about 8,000 jobs to save apparently $2.5 billion.

Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, explained to the Detroit Free Press that the union’s decision to focus on GM was strategic. “The UAW chose to take on its toughest target first to set the standard for the industry,” he said.

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He added that negotiations would likely focus on GM’s four plants that had been “unallocated,” or shut down, affecting about 2,800 jobs.

“Addressing this issue will be a heavy lift, but is central to address given the anger of the membership. They sacrificed when times were bad and now they’re being asked to sacrifice in a time of record profits,” Shaiken said.

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A GM spokesman said: “We look forward to having constructive discussions with the UAW on reaching an agreement that builds a strong future for our employees and our business.”

Danielle Murry, a machinist who has worked for GM for almost two decades, told the Free Press that she is waiting for a new job from the company after her former work at a transmission plant in Michigan ended in the closures.

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GM is “making record-breaking profits and they’re coming after us to take our benefits and our jobs,” she said.

Asked about the possibility of a strike, she said: “You have to stand up for yourselves. They’ve done nothing but take from us.”

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