DETROIT – Nearly 50,000 United Auto Workers union members were on strike against General Motors between Sept. 15. and Oct. 25, 2019.
Here’s a timeline of events leading up to and during this national strike against GM, the longest of its kind in 50 years:
The union's national agreements with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles expired at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. The union had picked GM as its target company for negotiations, meaning they knew GM would be the focus of bargaining and the first to have workers go on strike, if that's the path they chose to go. Meanwhile, union contracts were extended with both Ford and FCA.
Before the contract was allowed to expire, and before the strike started, there were already concerns about a federal investigation into current and former UAW officials accused of embezzling thousands of dollars.
Sept. 14 -- UAW-GM contract expires
The move to let the contract expire set off a chain reaction leading to a nationwide strike. Late on Sept. 14, 850 employees across Michigan and Ohio had already walked off the job. Just after midnight, UAW members who work for Aramark, a facility maintenance contractor, began to go on strike. The crew members work at General Motors facilities in Hamtramck, Warren, Flint, Grand Blanc and Parma, Ohio. They hoped this would pressure Aramark and General Motors into talks about several issues being raised by the union.
Sept. 15 -- National GM strike starts
The national strike officially started at 11:59 p.m., Sept. 15. It became the first auto strike in more than a decade. Union members started hitting the picket line. Nearly 50,000 workers at GM plants across the country became involved.
Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the United States, as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses. The UAW listed these demands:
- Fair wages
- Affordable healthcare
- Share of ProfitsJob Security
- A defined path to permanent seniority for temps
The automaker was expected to lose $250 million a day at its assembly plants. UAW members who showed up at the picket line started getting $250 a week -- $50 per day, Monday through Friday -- beginning on the eighth day of the strike.
General Motors announced it moved all striking union members to COBRA health insurance coverage.
"We understand strikes are difficult and disruptive to families. 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 COBRA so their health care benefits can continue," read a statement from GM.
About 1,200 Canadian workers at the Oshawa Ontario Truck Plant were laid off due to a parts shortage.
Sept. 20 -- Ex-UAW official indicted
Amid the national strike, Jeff Pietrzyk, a former aide to UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, became the 11th current or former UAW official to be accused of widespread corruption. An indictment accuses Pietrzyk of money laundering and wire fraud. Authorities said Pietrzyk spent years bilking UAW venders for kickbacks.
Sept. 22 -- Strike hits one-week mark
After a weeklong strike, it looked like there was some progress being made. In fact, sources told Local 4 and ClickOnDetroit that there had been "very important progress" in negotiations. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren, presidential hopeful and Democratic U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, made a stop in Metro Detroit to show support for the striking workers, who held a solidarity rally the same day.
Sept. 25 -- Progress reported again
By the 10th day of the strike, negotiators for the company and the union made progress in reaching a deal to end the nation's biggest strike in more than a decade, according to people familiar with the talks. Whether or not that was accurate, the strike continued.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined striking union members when they picketed at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant.
Sept. 26 -- All unsettled proposals on the main table
"All unsettled proposals are now at the Main Table and have been presented to General Motors, and we are awaiting their response."
That was the beginning of a statement released Sept. 26 by UAW Vice President and Director Terry Dittes.
General Motors reinstated health care benefits for striking UAW members on the 11th day of the strike. It was back on Sept. 17 when GM had announced it moved all striking UAW union members to COBRA health insurance coverage. The automaker, however, released a statement on Sept. 26 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."
On the strike's 16th day, Dittes said GM passed a comprehensive proposal at 9:40 p.m. the night before (Sept 30). That proposal did not "satisfy your contract demands or needs," according to the statement. Dittes said the contract came up short in areas such as health care, wages, temporary employees, skilled trades and job security. The UAW is working to reach an agreement "that meets the needs of our membership."
Oct. 4 -- UAW says it has made 'good progress'
The UAW union said it had made "good progress" regarding health care issues and temporary employee discussions with General Motors. Read that statement on Oct. 4 here.
Oct. 6 -- A 'turn for the worse'
The UAW said it sent an extensive proposal to GM on Saturday, Oct. 5, which included at least 35 proposals for hourly workers and three proposals for salaried workers. GM countered on Sunday, Oct. 6. In a statement released by the UAW, the union said GM "reverted back to their last rejected proposal and made little change. It did nothing to provide job security during the term of this agreement." In a statement released by GM, the automaker said it will "continue to negotiate in good faith with very good proposals that benefit employees today and builds a stronger future for all of us."
Oct. 7 -- Parts shortages
By Oct. 7, many auto shop owners were talking about having to call in favors and basically beg and plead to get their hands on parts needed to fix their cars. According to reports, the new Corvette Stringray would be delayed going into the market.
The UAW strike against Aramark, which started a day before the union's national strike against General Motors, had been carrying on while contract negotiations remained hung up on wages and healthcare. That's according to an update from Dittes, who released this statement on Oct. 8. More than 850 Aramark workers in Michigan and Ohio walked off the job Saturday, Sept. 14 over better wages, health care and retirement. The strike hit day 24 on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
In another statement released Oct. 8, union leaders said General Motors is showing a lack of job security for its American workers during contract negotiations. Dittes wrote, "We have made it clear that there is no job security for us when GM products are made in other countries for the purpose of selling them here in the U.S.A." The letter noted that the issue of job security is a top agenda item and there was little progress to report.
Oct. 9 -- Mary Barra meets with UAW leaders
General Motors CEO Mary Barra sat down with UAW leaders on Oct. 9. That was a potential sign of progress during the GM-UAW strike. Barra visited the negotiation room at the Renaissance Center and spoke face-to-face with UAW President Gary Jones and Dittes for about an hour. Barra requested UAW committees resolve their issues and provide a "comprehensive proposal."
Oct. 11 -- Back-and-forth
Things started to heat up on Friday, Oct. 11 when General Motors employees received a letter that morning from company leaders. The letter explained another offer was made to UAW leaders. Gerald Johnson, executive vice president at GM, called finalizing a deal with the union "critical."
The union responded: "The company's strategy from day one has been to play games at the expense of the workers. It has released half-truths, ripped away health care in the middle of the night and it reverted to previously weak and unacceptable proposals in response to the UAW's comprehensive solutions."
It was later learned by Local 4 and ClickOnDetroit that one of the biggest issues in the strike is what is to become of the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. It's one of four unallocated plants, but there is a specific plan for the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. General Motors is committing a couple billion more dollars to plant investment. Last month, GM offered $7 billion. As of Friday night, that number is $2 billion more. It's expected that $7.7 billion would go to GM-UAW facilities, with the rest going to joint ventures.
Oct. 11 -- UAW counterproposal
Oct. 11 was a busy day. A letter sent to union members indicated that the parties could be one step closer to reaching a tentative agreement. That was only if GM accepted the latest proposal. Dittes said the UAW made a counterproposal to GM's latest offer. He said that if GM "accepts and agrees to this group of proposals, we will have a tentative agreement."
Oct. 12 -- UAW increases strike pay
The UAW decided workers will get an additional $25 a week and could work part-time during the strike. The United Auto Workers International Executive Board voted to increase the strike pay to $275, effective Sunday, Oct. 13. The strike pay was set to increase Jan. 1, 2020. Before the decision to let employees work part-time, those who worked and exceeded the $250 strike pay would not receive that pay.
The UAW Mack Truck members went on strike at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 13 for better pay, benefits and job protections. According to the union, 3,600 Mack Truck workers in three states -- Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania -- are on strike. In a statement, the union cited unresolved issues by Mack Truck including wage increases, job security, wage progression, skilled trades, shift premiums, holiday schedules, work schedules, health and safety, seniority, pensions, retirement accounts, health care and prescription drug coverage, overtime, subcontracting and temporary and supplemental workers.
Oct. 14 -- What's on the negotiation table
- The current time to progress to top pay with full-time, full benefits status is eight years. The UAW wants that knocked down to four years.
- The union also wants temporary workers to be able to qualify for progression.
- Workers will get 3% raises and lump sum bonuses in two of four years.
- Workers will get enhanced health care at no extra cost.
Former GM negotiator Dr. Arthur Schwartz said he has a theory for why reaching an agreement is taking so long.
"It appears that the leaders right now are not confident that they'll be able to sell an agreement to the membership and get it ratified," he said.
It was also announced that the UAW called the National GM Council to Detroit for a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 16.
Oct. 15 -- Barra meeting again
On Oct. 15, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss were meeting with UAW leaders. This is a sign that the parties could be getting closer to reaching a tentative deal for a new contract.
Oct. 16 -- Proposed tentative agreement reached
Officials with the United Automobile Workers and General Motors announced a proposed tentative agreement on the 31st day of negotiations.
Oct. 19 -- Union members begin voting process
Union leaders approved a tentative agreement Oct. 17. It was up to members to vote on the measure, starting that weekend.
Oct. 21 -- UAW members vote on tentative deal
Union members will vote on the deal throughout the week. All ballots are expected to be turned in by Friday, Oct. 25.
Oct. 25 -- UAW-GM members ratify contract
UAW-GM members ratified the proposed contract on Oct. 25, 2019 ending the longest automotive strike in 50 years.