Sun. 5:11 p.m.: Protest planned at GM Lordstown tonight
DETROIT (AP) — Contract talks between the United Auto Workers union and General Motors broke off Sunday and haven’t resumed, meaning the union’s first national strike since 2007 is very likely.
GM’s 49,200 UAW members are scheduled to go on strike at 11:59 p.m. unless an agreement is reached on a new four-year contract. But UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg says both sides are so far apart that he expects to go on strike.
The union represents workers at 33 manufacturing sites and 20 parts warehouses nationwide.
The UAW has announced protests against General Motors across the nation at other plants, including the idled assembly plant in Lordstown.
GM on Friday offered to open an electric vehicle battery plant in Lordstown. The new factory would be in addition to a proposal to make electric vehicles for a company called Workhorse, according someone who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because that person wasn’t authorized to disclose details of the negotiations, which hadnát been released to the public.
The automaker also offered to build a new all-electric pickup truck at a factory in Detroit that is slated to close next year, the person said.
It’s unclear how many workers the two plants would employ. The closures, especially of the Lordstown plant, have become issues in the 2020 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump has consistently criticized the company and demanded that Lordstown be reopened.
President of the Local UAW 1112, Tim OáHara, said all local union officials agreed to protest against the offer, and 95 percent of members from the local union agreed. Union officials are expected to be at the Union Hall preparing today and the protest is expected to begin at 11:59 p.m.
He said he didn’t hear or know anything about the two products offered by GM.
The UAW aid it would strike for fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing, job security and a path to permanent employment for temporary workers.
In a statement, GM also said the offer made to the union on Saturday included more than $7 billion in U.S. factory investments and the creation of 5,400 new positions, a minority of which would be filled by existing employees. GM would not give a precise number. The investments would be made at factories in four states, two of which were not identified.
The statement also said the company offered “best in class wages and benefits, improved profit sharing and a payment of $8,000 to each worker upon ratification. The offer included wage or lump sum increases in all four years of the deal, plus ânationally leading” health benefits.
The announcement came hours after the union let its contract with GM expire Saturday night.
If there is a strike, picketers would shut down a total of 53 GM facilities, including 33 manufacturing sites and 20 parts distribution warehouses. GM has factories in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and Kansas.
On Saturday, Terry Dittes, the union’s chief bargainer, said in a letter to GM members that after months of bargaining, both the union and GM were far apart on issues such as wages, health care, temporary employees, job security and profit-sharing. The letter to members and another one to GM were aimed at turning up the pressure on GM negotiators.
A strike would bring to a halt GM’s U.S. production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well. That would mean fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and it would make it impossible to build specially ordered cars and trucks.
The strike would be the unionás first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.
On Friday, union leaders extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely, but the pact with General Motors was still set to expire Saturday night.
The union picked GM, which is more profitable than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, as the target company, meaning it’s the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout.
Talks between the union and GM were tense from the start, largely because GM plans to close four U.S. factories, including the one on the Detroit border with the enclave of Hamtramck, and Lordstown. The union has promised to fight the closures.
Here are the main areas of disagreement:
• GM is making big money, $8 billion last year alone, and workers want a bigger slice. The union wants annual pay raises to guard against an economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers donát want higher fixed costs.
• The union also wants new products for the four factories GM wants to close. The factory plans have irked some workers, although most of those who were laid off will get jobs at other GM factories. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity.
• The companies want to close the labor cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories. GMás gap is the largest at $13 per hour, followed by Ford at $11 and Fiat Chrysler at $5, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research.
• Union members have great health insurance plans and workers pay about 4 percent of the cost. Employees at large firms nationwide pay about 34 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The automakers would like to cut costs.