Compared to the last time they squared off four years ago, there was a very different mood in the air as negotiators from General Motors and the United Auto Workers shook hands and offered smiles for the cameras Monday morning, marking the start of their quadrennial contract talks.
As they sat down to hammer out a new contract in 2011, the memory of the devastating recession that drove GM into bankruptcy was still fresh. This time, the giant automaker is generating billions in profits and looking to grow even more. But the UAW clearly wants to get its share of that growth, especially for new GM employees who have been stuck in second-tier status that, noted union Pres. Dennis Williams, barely makes them qualify as middle-class.
In nearly identical blue shirts, Williams and GM CEO Mary Barra wore matching smiles and spoke repeatedly about working ”together” to find “creative solutions. But while he cautioned that a strike was not a goal but a sign of failure, Williams also declared “I’m not afraid of confrontation” during a media Q&A session.