LANSING, MI — United Auto Workers (UAW) members went on strike at 11:00 am on Monday, September 24, 2007 for what they see as a failure of General Motors to address job security and other
mandatory issues of bargaining.
Shortly before, lunch thousands of General Motors employees walked off the job and picked up strike posters. It is the first nationwide strike against the auto industry in the United States in more than three decades and the first against General Motors in almost four years.
The UAW and General Motors had been engaged in intense labor negotiation since their contract expired on September 14, 2007.
“We’re shocked and disappointed that General Motors has failed to recognize and appreciate what our membership has contributed during the past four years,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “Since 2003 our members have made extraordinary efforts every time the company came to us with a problem: the corporate restructuring, the attrition plan, the Delphi bankruptcy, the 2005 health care agreement. In every case, our members went the extra mile to find reasonable solutions.
“Throughout this time period," said Gettelfinger, "it has been the dedication of UAW members that has helped GM set new standards for safety, quality and productivity in their manufacturing facilities. And in this current round of bargaining, we did everything possible to negotiate a new contract, including an unprecedented agreement to stay at the bargaining table nine days past the expiration of the previous agreement.”
“This is our reward: a complete failure by GM to address the reasonable needs and concerns of our members,” said UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, director of the union’s GM Department. “Instead, in 2007 company executives continued to award themselves bonuses while demanding that our members accept a reduced standard of living.
“The company’s disregard for our members has forced our bargaining committee to take this course of action,” said Rapson.
In a statement from General Motors regarding the UAW work stoppage they stated: We are disappointed in the UAW’s decision to call a national strike. The bargaining involves complex, difficult issues that affect the job security of our U.S. work force and the long-term viability of the company. We are fully committed to working with the UAW to develop solutions together to address the competitive challenges facing General Motors. We will continue focusing our efforts on reaching an agreement as soon as possible.
Times are going to be tough for a lot of families during the strike since the UAW only pays $200.00 during strikes.
According to General Motors manufacturing handbook, the total of both cash compensation and benefits provided to GM hourly workers in 2006 amounted to approximately $73.26 per active hour worked. This total is made of two main components: cash compensation ($39.68) and benefit/government required programs ($33.58).
The average annual cash compensation for hourly employees in 2006 was $39.68 per hour. Included in average earnings are straight-time pay, Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), night-shift premiums, overtime premiums, holiday and vacation pay. In 2003, GM workers logged 41,363 (hours in 000’s) in overtime hours for an average of 371 hours per worker; in 2004, 39,409 overtime hours for an average of 374 hours per worker; in 2005, 33,555 overtime hours for an average of 337 hours per worker; and in 2006, 27,265 overtime hours for an average of 315 hours per worker. For more information media.gm.com/manufacturing/handbook/other_benefits.pdf
According to the UAW website, Pat Sweeney, President of Local 5960 in Lake Orion, MI said, "I never thought this would happen, but if this is what our bargaining committee felt needed to be done, then this is what we have to do. …
"Health care is a big thing for all of our members. We have a lot of retirees and those of us who aren’t retired, will be one day. … We’re all going to get there sooner or later.
"Job security is important to us, too. When you add that to health care, it all comes together. You can’t have one without the other."
Local 5960 has 2,500 active members in the General Motors Unit; 300 members who belong to small parts operations and 5,000 retirees. He celebrates his 29th anniversary with the UAW in October and two adult children and one teenager.
However with 73,000 UAW members, their sheer force and lack of a normal paycheck is surely to reverberate in the communities that they live in.
After two days the UAW called off the strike after reaching an agreement.Details about the contract have not been released as of the time of printing. The contract does include an agreement to transfer GM’s $51 billion retiree health care liability to an independent trust which will be administered by the UAW.