The United Auto Workers have begun an official strike against General Motors, the first auto strike in the United States since 2007, and the largest strike to occur within in those 12 years.
Contract negotiations broke down over the weekend, and the strike officially began at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, reporting from Axios detailed. Talks between UAW and GM will continue while the strike commences.
The strike will not affect other companies, like Ford or Chrysler. It will halt production at 53 GM facilities in the United States, and likely cause production of other facilities in Mexico and Canada to come to a standstill as well. Approximately 49,000 workers across the U.S. will be involved in the strike.
Here are four items about the strike you may not have heard about yet.
GM Earned A Big Profit Last Year — And Workers Want Assurances
General Motors earned an estimated $8 billion in 2018 according to the Associated Press. That profit is a big reason why the strike is happening, as workers feel like they aren’t being given a proper cut of the profits in comparison.
What’s on the minds of UAW workers specifically is the fact that there are many signs that an economic downturn is imminent. Market indicators, such as the inverted yield curve on U.S. Treasury bonds, has workers worried. As the company has made profits over the years — thanks in part to union concessions, UAW leaders maintain — they want a way to ensure they will be protected against a sudden downturn in the economy.
49,000 autoworkers across the country, including thousands here in WNY are on strike. We’re outside General Motors in #Tonawanda where the UAW is asking for higher wages, better health care and job security. Tune into #Wakeup for the latest. @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/UAMQbYu3ak
— Gabrielle Mediak (@GabrielleMediak) September 16, 2019
“We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said.
Workers are also pointing out that tens of thousands of jobs were cut by GM in 2018, even though the company received hundreds of millions of dollars in the form of tax cuts from the Trump administration’s tax law that was implemented that year, Common Dreams reported.
Closing The Foreign Wage Gap
Workers aren’t just looking to help themselves within the United States. Even though the strike only affects workers here, one of the concessions UAW is hoping GM will make is closing the wage gap for employees in Canada and Mexico, who earn around $13 an hour less than workers in the U.S.
Factory Closures Are Part Of The Equation
Four recently announced factory closures are on the minds of both workers and the company itself. According to its old agreement with UAW, GM is only allowed to close factories amid significant market pressures, but the union alleges GM has been using that definition in a loose way. They’re hoping the new contract can define that in stronger terms.
GM has offered to open two plants for the development of electric vehicles at those locations. The number of people it would employ at both of those locations, and how many would be current GM employees, is unclear, although the company has said it wants to create 5,400 new positions. GM has also offered to invest $7 billion in several factories across the country.
GM Wants Healthcare Concessions
On average, U.S. workers pay about a third of their private sector healthcare costs. UAW workers at GM pay about four percent of their healthcare costs.
GM wants workers to pay a significantly higher portion of their healthcare than they are paying at the moment. But workers maintain that the costs aren’t a huge burden for the company, pointing out yet again that GM made $8 billion last year. Workers are also asking for better healthcare from their employer than what they’re presently receiving.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.