It’s official. United Auto Workers are striking against General Motors today after labor leaders and GM failed to arrive at a new labor agreement deal before midnight. The strike effects 33 plants and 22 distribution centers across the United States, and has potentially huge financial ramifications if an agreement can’t be reached quickly.
It’s been 12 years since the United States saw such a large-scale labor strike (a strike against GM and Chrysler in 2007), and while contracts are also up with the other OEMs (Ford and Chrysler), UAW focused efforts on GM because of the three GM plants that have been idled despite promises to keep them open.
Nearly 50,000 workers are currently on strike as of midnight as the U.A.W. asks for better wages, the reopening of the idled plants, a narrowing of wages between new workers and veterans, and an increased number of jobs available. General Motors bargain position involves workers taking on more of the health insurance burden, and increased productivity and flexibility in factories.
The idled plants have driven a great deal of the negotiation and controversy. They’re the result of declining vehicle sales, particularly of the now discontinued Chevy Cruze and Impala, direct results of consumer focus on crossover vehicles. The contract calls for the idled plants to be re-opened. GM had promised the union that there would be no plant closings, and idling these plants falls into a semantic black hole that allows them to technically keep their promise while also keeping the plants non-operational.
Complicating the issue on labor’s side is the shadow cast by the current federal investigation into corruption at the U.A.W. where several leaders are being investigated for misappropriation of funds, using union dues to pay for travel and personal spending. Two Fiat Chrysler executives are also under investigation.
While the deadline has passed, U.A.W and GM have resumed talks as of 10 a.m. on Monday.