Against that backdrop, Dittes and his GM counterpart, Scott Sandefur, are expected to resume negotiations Wednesday morning at the RenCen despite some turbulence over the weekend that prompted Dittes to tell members the talks had "taken a turn for the worse."
Then Tuesday evening, Dittes issued an email to members contending that GM has not shown a "solid commitment" to building vehicles in the United States. The UAW considers that key to job security, and Dittes said it is one of the union's top agenda items with "little progress to report."
But Tuesday, people close to the talks said, both sides were quiet and hunkered down. GM awaited a union response to a proposal it sent the UAW on Monday. Progress seemed improved compared to the weekend, but work remained to reach a tentative agreement, one person said.
Meanwhile, some 46,000 GM union members remain on the picket lines, living on strike pay and pinning their trust on that guy behind the wheel of an old Malibu.
Dittes, who joined the UAW in 1978, lives with his wife, Gail, in Philadelphia. They have six children and six grandchildren, the UAW's website says.
But his East Coast roots don't fool those who know him, who say he's a Detroit car guy.
"He's ready for a fight," said the local leader. "He came from the factory floor of a GM plant and worked his way up. He's very down to earth and a regular guy."
Dittes has held a number of high-level UAW positions over the years, but his roots began on the line at the Fisher Body Plant in Trenton, New Jersey, according to the UAW's website. Those who meet him say he exudes the humility from his days on the floor.
"It was kind of like talking to somebody you work with on the line, just a regular member," said Tim O'Hara, president of Local 1112 in Lordstown, Ohio, on his first meeting with Dittes.
O'Hara met Dittes at the UAW's Solidarity House in Detroit last November, just days after GM said it would not assign a new vehicle to Lordstown Assembly.