UAW members say strike against General Motors goes beyond fair wages

Union members say fight is about concessions made in 2008

DETROIT – "Nobody wants a strike but if you force our hand and take away what’s ours, we have to strike," said Matthew Coleman of Local 174.  

United Auto Workers members say this fight goes beyond wages and benefits. It’s about honoring concessions General Motors workers made during the Great Recession of 2008. 

"We bailed them out. We took a huge pay cut. We have no cost of living because we helped the company stay afloat," said Ghana Goodwin-Dye, former president of Local 909. 

While on strike, UAW members will only get $250 a week. It's a financial hit they say is necessary to win this fight. 

"A lot of us have been preparing for this for a long time as they’ve been stockpiling cars," said Dimitrie Toth with Local 653. 

Negotiations come at a time when the UAW leadership itself is mired in controversy. Several federal investigations of union leaders have ended with convictions.

Embattled UAW President Gary Jones didn’t even announce the strike Sunday. He was seen leaving the news conference through a back door. 

"A few bad apples don’t speak for the majority...we don’t get to take lavish vacations. I don’t want their mishaps to overshadow what we’re out here fighting for. Some people are desperate," said Sierra Tucker, with Local 174. 

  • The UAW strike against GM began at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Picket lines have formed outside of plants Monday morning.
  • The UAW says its roughly 50,000 members would be on strike. 
  • Workers have shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states and 22 parts distribution warehouses.
  • UAW members who show up at the picket line will get $250 a week.
  • As of Sunday morning, 850 employees across Michigan and Ohio had already walked off the job.
  • The UAW said workers are striking to secure fair wages, affordable healthcare, their share of profits, job security and 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"

Workers have shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the United States, as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.

Officials said there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

On Sunday, during the buildup to the walkout, there was deep concern. But Monday morning, both parties are back at the bargaining table at the Renaissance Center in Downtown Detroit.

Workers form a picket line outside GM's Hamtramck Assembly plant on Sept. 16, 2019. (WDIV)

UAW and GM officials got back to business around 10 a.m. Monday.

GM officials talked about the offer they made just before the deadline Saturday night. The offer included $8,000 signing bonuses, annual bonuses for workers and health care that would remain largely the same as before.

Now, that's what officials are talking about Monday while workers picket. Workers said they're glad to be on the picket lines so they can get the company's attention.

"We're passionate about what we're doing," Matthew Coleman said. "We don't -- nobody wants a strike. But if you force our hand by trying to take away what's ours, we've got to strike. We don't have any other choice."

"I believe there is power in numbers and that our movement will be felt and maybe they'll take us more serious on what we need," Sierra Tucker said.

Local 4 is hearing from UAW and GM officials that there's a mood with the new offer that there's a lot of ground being covered.

Only 2 percent of what would amount to a large book of contracts had been settled as of Saturday night, Local 4 learned. With the new offer, there's a belief officials can quickly accelerate the pace, Local 4 has learned.

Officials have already started working. They haven't yet said they're going to go 24/7, but they're at least willing to do so, officials said.

Workers form a picket line outside GM's Hamtramck Assembly plant on Sept. 16, 2019. (WDIV)

UAW says GM should have made latest offer sooner

A top United Auto Workers official is telling General Motors that if the company had made its latest offer earlier, the union may not have gone on strike.

The letter from UAW Vice President Terry Dittes (DIT-ez) to GM's chief bargainer says the company waited to make the offer until two hours before the contract expired Friday night. He says it would have been possible to reach an agreement and avoid a strike if the company moved sooner.

Union demands

Workers are going on strike to secure:

•    Fair Wages
•    Affordable Healthcare
•    Our Share of Profits
•    Job Security
•    A Defined Path to Permanent Seniority for Temps

The decision to strike comes a day after UAW Vice President Terry Dittes notified General Motors leadership that the Union would not agree to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreements.

“We have been clear at the table about what GM members have indicated we will accept. We are standing up for what is right. We as local unions will sacrifice to stand up for what we deserve,” said National Bargaining Committee Chair Ted Krumm of UAW Local 652.  

“Our members have spoken; we have taken action; and this is a decision we did not make lightly. We are committed to a strong contract at GM that recognizes our UAW members, who make some of the greatest products in the world and make GM so profitable.”

Workers form a picket line outside GM's Hamtramck Assembly plant on Sept. 16, 2019. (WDIV)

Ford, FCA contracts extended

The UAW said Friday that it was allowing its contracts with Ford and FCA to extend past the Saturday night deadline while the union focused on bargaining with GM. The UAW had announced earlier this month that GM would be the focus of bargaining. 

Ford and FCA union leaders will wait to see what kind of deal comes out of the GM bargaining.

Previous coverage

UAW members were forming picket lines Monday morning as the union went on strike against GM.
Video shows UAW workers striking outside the GM Lake Orion plant on Monday morning.
UAW officials have launched a national strike against General Motors.

Local 4 and ClickOnDetroit will be following this developing story.


About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.