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UAW authorizes strike; union targets General Motors first in contract talks

Phoebe Wall Howard and Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT -- The UAW will seek to negotiate a contract with General Motors this fall as a template for talks with Detroit's two other automakers, setting up a confrontation with a company that has angered workers with plans to idle four U.S. factories.

UAW leadership made the decision, spokesman Brian Rothenberg said.

Factory workers have said they feel angry and mistreated by the company since GM's announcement of plant reductions in November.

"Mary Barra said from the outset of these talks that we will stand up (together) as we tackle a changing industry. We are ready to stand strong for our future," UAW President Gary Jones said in a statement released at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

"We are focused. We are prepared and we are all ready to stand up (together) for our members, our communities and our manufacturing future," Jones said.

GM responded: "We look forward to having constructive discussions with the UAW on reaching an agreement that builds a strong future for our employees and our business," said a statement from David Barnas, a GM spokesman.

 

The UAW, which represents nearly 150,000 hourly workers at Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, also said workers at each local of all three companies have voted to authorize a strike: 95.98% approval at Ford, 96.4% at GM and 96% at FCA.

The strike authorization is procedural and routine, part of the bargaining process that happens every four years when a new national contract is being negotiated. The current pact expires Sept. 14.

"The vote does not mean there will or will not be a strike. It gives authority to the UAW international president and international executive board to call for a strike," the UAW said.

"No one goes into collective bargaining taking a strike lightly," Jones said. "But it is a key tool in the tool belt as our bargaining team sits across from the company. Ultimately, the company holds that destiny in their hands as they bargain. Clearly the UAW stood up for them in a very dark time," a reference to concessions from the union when GM and FCA predecessor Chrysler were forced into bankruptcy 10 years ago and bailed out by the U.S. government. "Now that they are profitable, it is time for them to stand up for all of us," the union said.

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