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GM, UAW in it “Together” as Contract Talks Open

But “I’m not afraid of confrontation,” says union chief.

by on Jul.13, 2015

Handshakes and smiles mark the opening of GM-UAW contract talks. Shown in front: GM CEO Barra, UAW Pres. Williams, GM negotiator Clegg and UAW bargaining chief Estrada.

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.

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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.

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Lots on the Line as GM Set to Begin Contract Talks with UAW

Maker wants more givebacks, workers want concessions restored. Is a battle brewing?

by on Jul.22, 2011

UAW Pres. Bob King doesn't think GM's 2-tier pay structure offers new employees a living wage.

The United Auto Workers Union is set to begin contract negotiations with General Motors Corp. Chrysler Group and Ford Motor in the coming days and, as always, the negotiations with the GM will once again serve as the main event .

After all, Ford hasn’t had a serious labor disruption since Gerald Ford occupied the White House. Even if the talks at Ford turn contentious — and they might — the company still has the option of bringing in executive chairman Bill Ford to smooth over any rough edges. Bill Ford is widely respected inside and has a well-founded reputation for being more than fair with union members.

At Chrysler union leaders and the rank-and-file have been thoroughly charmed by Sergio Marchionne, who has gone out of his way in the past two years to court the UAW. The union leadership at Chrysler has reciprocated, giving Marchionne wide latitude even though, up until this week, they were the technical owners of the company.

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But at GM, the long legacy of bitter fights and mistrust between labor and management still overshadows the negotiations. Both union leaders and GM’s management have made an effort to move on and give the company the equivalent of a post-bankruptcy fresh start.  Nonetheless, labor relations at GM are very much a work in progress.

And that could bring some serious problems as the talks head to a September deadline — even though the terms of GM’s 2009 government bailout bar both a worker strike and management lockout.

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