UAW setting up for GM strike after contract expires this weekend

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FLINT (WJRT) (9/13/19) - Time could be running out between the UAW and General Motors with a possible strike looming when their labor contract expires this weekend.

The Associated Press is reporting that some UAW locals were preparing to set up picket lines on Friday.

Labor negotiations started in July with union members hoping to cash in on GM's financial success over the past years following years of concessions from UAW members. GM is wary of giving up too much with a possible recession ahead.

Both sides have a lot at stake.

GM and other manufacturers want to lower its labor costs by hiring more temporary workers reduce health care costs and cut workers if the economy goes into a recession.

The UAW is fighting for better wages, worker security and a larger piece of the profit pie automakers are enjoying.

"A lot of times it's posturing, because whenever there's a negotiation, you want to try and get leverage over the opposition. And the leverage the union has is, we're going to walk off the job if you don't cave in to our demands, which is going to hurt the company's profit," said University of Michigan-Flint Associate Economics Professor Chris Douglas.

There is also the looming cloud of corruption after several current and former UAW officials were charged with embezzlement, mail fraud and money laundering.

Another point of contention is the closing of five GM plants, including Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit and Lordstown Assembly in Ohio. Thousands of workers lost their jobs or transferred to other plants.

"It looks like General Motors idled those plants based on a technicality of the last contract," Douglas said. "The last contract said you're not allowed to idle plants. But, what General Motors said is we're not idling these plants, we're just going to un-allocate them, not give them cars to build."

Even if no agreement is reached over the week, both sides could agree to an extension while talks continue. The UAW announced temporary contact extensions with Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

The union has targeted GM as the focus company during this round of negotiations, meaning the outcome of this contract will weigh on deals with the other two members of the Detroit Three.

The last major strike happened in Flint back in 1998, lasting several months and costing GM more than $2 billion in profits.

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