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UAW-GM strike: Why the strike is still dragging on

Strike is in day 17

Workers have been on the picket line for 17 days, and it's still unknown when the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union's strike against General Motors will end.

Analyst Kristin Dziczek, with the Center for Automotive Research, believes one reason the strike has dragged on this long is because of lofty rank-and-file expectations.

"The workers say, 'We gave up things, and if we don't get them back now before the next recession hits, we will never get those things back,'" she said.

The negotiations boil down to budget management: GM budgets a certain amount for labor, and the union allocates the money where it wants it. Getting GM to give more money than what it has budgeted is difficult.

"It's not over because obviously some of the demands the UAW is making, GM has decided they can't live with," said Arthur Schwartz, a former GM negotiator.

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GM health care announcement

On Sept, 26, GM released a statement explaining it had reinstated health care benefits for striking workers. That was a sharp turn from what was announced more than a week earlier. On Sept. 17, GM had announced it moved all striking UAW union members to COBRA health insurance coverage.

The automaker, however, released a statement on Thursday explaining there was "confusion" and that it has "chosen to work with our providers to keep all benefits fully in place for striking hourly employees."

Read the union's response here.

Sunday, Sept. 22,  was called a "Day of Solidarity," an event where all union members were encouraged to walk the picket line. Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, protested with workers at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, expressing solidarity with them. 

Similar Solidarity protests were held around the country that weekend in support of GM workers and members of the United Auto Workers. 

Union demands

The UAW said workers are striking to secure:

  • Fair wages
  • Affordable healthcare
  • Their share of profits
  • Job security
  • A defined path to permanent seniority for temp workers

GM said it presented "a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways."

Overall, union workers have shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states and 22 parts distribution warehouses. Negotiations between the two parties have been underway all week, but it's unclear when a new deal could be reached and when the strike will end.

Work has idled a GM engine facility in Saint Catherine's, Ontario due to a parts shortage. Workers at the Oshawa Ontario Truck Plant were laid off last week due to a parts shortage.

Aramark workers strike

UAW members also initiated a strike against Aramark in Michigan and Ohio. About 850 union workers went on strike against Armark the day before the UAW-GM strike started.

"We have UAW members who work long, hard hours and are still on public assistance," said Gerald Kariem, Director of UAW Region 1D. "It's shameful."

Aramark maintenance workers in Hamtramck, Warren, Flint, Grand Blanc and Parma, Ohio have been working on an extended contract since March of 2018, the UAW said.

Key issues involve wages, caps on health insurance, vacation time and 401k retirement.

"Every day, UAW members go to work and keep these plants profitable," said UAW Region 1 Director Frank Stuglin. "It's astounding that Aramark has not agreed to bargain in good faith over their contributions."

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About the Authors:

Amber Ainsworth

Amber is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a Journalism and Screen Studies degree. She is a writer and photographer who covers music and local beer, when she's not covering news. Amber is also a member of the Michigan National Guard.