Fri. 1:20 p.m.: Strike possible as UAW contracts about to expire

DETROIT (AP) – A strike against General Motors looms large as contracts with the United Auto Workers and Detroit’s three automakers is about to expire.

The union’s national agreements with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler end at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, and the union has picked GM as its target company. That means it’s the focus of bargaining, and if there are any strikes, GM will be the first victim.

It’s possible that the contracts will be extended or an agreement could be reached, but it’s more likely that 49,200 UAW members could walk out of GM plants as early as Sunday because union and company demands are so far apart.

Art Wheaton, an auto industry expert at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, expects the GM contract to be extended for a time, but he says the gulf between both sides is wide.

“GM is looking through the windshield ahead, and it looks like nothing but land mines,” he said of a possible recession, trade disputes and th e expense of developing electric and autonomous vehicles. “I think there’s really going to be a big problem down the road in matching the expectations of the union and the willingness of General Motors to be able to give the membership what it wants.”

Plant-level union leaders from all over the country will be in Detroit on Sunday to talk about the next steps, and after that, the union likely will make an announcement.

But leaders are likely to face questions about an expanding federal corruption probe that snared a top official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged 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’s the same region that UAW President Gary Jones led before taking the union’s top office last year.

In a 40-page criminal complaint, the government alleged that over $600,000 in UAW money was used to p ay debts by union officials at area businesses, including restaurants, a golf resort, cigar shop and rental properties, between 2014 and 2017.

The union said the government has misconstrued facts and said the allegations are not proof of wrongdoing. “Regardless, we will not let this distract us from the critical negotiations under way with GM to gain better wages and benefits,” spokesman Brian Rothenberg said.

He wouldn’t comment on what might happen next in the talks, and GM said only that its goal is to reach an agreement that builds a strong future for the company and its employees.


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