- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2019

The largest labor strike in the United States in a decade brought more than 50 General Motors factories and parts warehouses to a standstill Monday, as almost 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers stayed away from their jobs.

Talks between GM and the UAW continued amid tension in Detroit as the nation’s No. 1 automaker tried to coax workers from picket lines in the aftermath of weekend negotiations failing to achieve agreement on a new four-year contract.

The strike affected GM plants in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, New York, Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. after talks broke down over a range of issues including profit-sharing, job security, wages and health care.

Wall Street was nervous about the labor action, and GM shares fell more than 4% to close at $37.21.

Late Monday, President Trump told reporters he hoped the strike would be a “quick one” and that both sides could work things out, The Associated Press reported.



“I’m sad to see the strike,” said the president, adding that he doesn’t want the car company to build plants outside the U.S.

Union representatives released a letter its top negotiator sent Sunday chiding GM for not making clear its offers earlier in the talks, which had been underway for weeks.

“Had we received this proposal earlier in the process, it may have been possible to reach a tentative agreement and avoid a strike,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes wrote in correspondence, which the UAW shared with The Washington Times.

Reports ranged widely on how close the two sides were to resolving the first strike since 2007, a two-day stoppage that cost an estimated $300 million.

According to AP, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said negotiators had come to terms on only 2% of the contract.

“We’ve got 98% to go,” Mr. Rothenberg said.

GM declined to comment.

The sides have been fighting over wages and benefits, with the UAW demanding a larger share of the company’s profits, including annual pay raises. It also has been fighting to stop GM from closing auto assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio.

GM has countered that the plant closures are in response to shifts in the global car market and that it plans to open facilities in different locations. It also has argued that its wages and benefits are among the best in the industry and that it offered the UAW more than $7 billion in pay increases.

“We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency,” GM said in a statement just before the strike.

The streets around GM’s pickup truck assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, were alive with picketing.

“Everybody is working together. People are riding by honking their support. They are picketing the plant. They are down at the Union Hall organizing. They’re doing everything,” Stephanie Bond, manager of the Fisher Hall Bingo parlor near the plant, told The Washington Times.

The blue-collar city was once a hub of industrial activity. Flint now has just one major factory: the GM pickup truck plant. Down the street, The Wooden Keg Tavern was staying open 24 hours a day to provide food and bathrooms for pickets.

“We’re slammed. We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” the tavern manager said.

The UAW this weekend temporarily extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler, but those companies could be brought into the strike if talks with GM do not improve. The UAW has targeted GM, analysts say, because it is the most profitable of the leading U.S. automakers.

The strike also comes amid a widening corruption investigation of UAW leadership that has added pressure on negotiators for both sides.

Vance Pearson, head of a UAW regional office based near St. Louis, was charged last week with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California.

It was the same region that UAW President Gary Jones led before taking the union’s top office last year. Mr. Jones has not been charged.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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