General Motors Co. demands for new concessions on health care and a meager wage increase have emerged as issues energizing the United Auto Workers strike against the company in what is quickly turning into the longest nationwide walkout by the UAW at GM in almost a half a century.
Meanwhile, other unions, among them the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Air Line Pilots Association rallied to support the UAW, framing the strike as part of larger effort to obtain fairness for all workers.
GM publicized its contract proposals, including new work for “unallocated” plants in Detroit and Lordstown, Ohio, and an $8,000 “ratification” bonus. Additionally, health care would remain unchanged. Sources familiar with the bargaining told thedetroitureau.com that GM is also demanding the union pay a fair share of the cost of prescription drugs, which is capped at a nominal cost.
Local union officials took it upon themselves to release additional details about GM’s health-care and wage proposals to union members via social media.
“GM offered 2% wage increase, which is 60 cents per hour. Also GM wants UAW members to pay 15% of the health insurance, which comes to approximately $320 per month. That is a loss of $224 per month,” noted one Facebook post by a union member.
Other union members echoed the concern.
“GM doesn’t want to pay our health care,” said Aaron Edwards of UAW Local 653 as he passed around a sign-up sheet among picketers on a darkened street corner outside the GM complex in Pontiac, Michigan. “We’re (here) to protect our wages and our health care,” he said.
“I walked out. They didn’t push me out. I believe GM has treated us unjustly,” said another of the group of pickets in Pontiac after the strike began.
Meanwhile, the UAW’s strike also picked up support from other unions, who viewed as part an effort to protect workers throughout.
“A vote to strike is never an easy one. Making just $250 per week in union strike pay, the UAW GM members are standing up for their future. They have been clear about what they will accept, and they are standing firm in fighting for what is right. They are sacrificing a great deal to stand up for what we deserve,” said Megan Dayton of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees in a newsletter circulated to members of her union.
Other major unions also vowed to support the UAW during the strike.
“The United Steel Workers stands in total solidarity with striking UAW members, as they undertake this fight with GM. It inevitably falls to workers themselves to protect and advance their interests from runaway corporate greed and the continued abandonment of working-class communities.
“When it comes to corporate self-interest, management at General Motors has displayed the worst possible behavior, including plant closings and a complete failure to share the rewards UAW members made possible,” the USW said.
“The USW, at every level of our organization, is prepared to offer assistance and support as they begin this struggle,” the statement added.
The Air Line Pilots Association, International issued support for the nearly 50,000 members of the UAW union who went on strike Monday after their contract at General Motors expired: “On behalf of the 63,000 ALPA pilots at 35 airlines, we stand beside our union brothers and sisters as they work to secure a better future for themselves and their families.
“Unions are the social glue that connect our communities and are built on the durable shared value of defending and furthering the dignity of work. Unionism is a shared commitment to the collective action that is not only necessitated by the challenges we face but holds the key to achievements far greater than those possible when acting alone,” ALPA said.
“Teamsters and the UAW have a decades-long relationship of having each other’s back. And that continues with the UAW’s notification that it will go out on strike against General Motors,” said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa.
“We laud the UAW for its work to ensure that its GM employees are treated with respect and dignity on the job. At a time when more and more companies are downsizing and shipping jobs out of the U.S., it is imperative that unions fight for their members. Workers should be rewarded for good work with fair wages and benefits. That’s what the UAW is demanding,” Hoffa said.
A member of the UAW’s executive board, Vance Pearson, is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate in St. Louis on charges of conspiracy and embezzlement of union funds. A UAW spokesman has insisted that the charges against Pearson and other former UAW officials and officials have no bearing on the union’s handling of this year’s negotiations.