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UAW strikes at General Motors SUV plant as union begins targeting automakers’ cash cows

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union turned up the pressure on General Motors as 5,000 workers walked out Tuesday at a highly profitable SUV plant in Arlington, Texas.

The move comes just a day after the union went on strike at a Stellantis pickup truck plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, north of Detroit.

The additional plants further aggravate a labor dispute that is in its sixth week and has now put about 46,000 union workers out of work. And rhetoric from both sides shows they remain far apart on what they view as fair wage and benefits offers, with the company and union remaining firmly committed to their positions.

The addition of the Arlington plant, which makes large truck-based SUVs such as the Cheverolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, came just after GM reported strong third-quarter financial results . SUVs are among GM’s most profitable vehicles.

The company on Tuesday reported net income of just over $3 billion for the quarter, down 7% from a year ago. But the company has reported strong demand and high prices for its vehicles.

UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement that GM exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, but its offer lagged behind Ford’s, preserving a two-tier pay structure and offering the 401 contribution (k) the lowest of the three companies, i.e. 8%. “It’s time for GM workers and the entire working class to get their fair share,” Fain said.

GM CEO Mary Barra said on Tuesday morning’s earnings conference call that the company had already made a record offer and would not accept a contract that jeopardized the company’s future.

The union said the move came just hours after GM announced its quarterly results and four days after Fain said GM’s latest offer was not big enough.

Barra said GM’s record offer rewards employees but does not endanger the company or UAW jobs. “Accepting unsustainable costs would put our future and the jobs of GM team members at risk, and jeopardizing our future is something I will not do,” she said in a statement.

After the Arlington strike was announced, GM said it was disappointed with the escalation, calling the strike “unnecessary and irresponsible.” The strike is harming employees and will “negatively impact our dealers, suppliers and the communities that rely on us.”

Automakers have made layoffs since the strike began and blamed the job cuts on the walkouts. And General Motors Co. shares are down more than 13% this year, touching Tuesday lows not seen since 2020 during the pandemic, when the company’s sales growth fell nearly 11%.

Last week, GM made an offer that increased its previous offer by about 25 percent in total value, the company said.

Thomas Kochan, a professor of labor and employment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the escalation means negotiations are at a pivotal point.

“The pressures to reach an agreement acceptable to everyone are immense, both on the company and on the union,” he said. “The effects of a strike extended to all three companies and prolonged over time would be profound and would have very serious negative effects on the companies and the workforce. »

The companies, he said, are close to the limits of their offers and the union is close to what it can legitimately hope to get.

“There comes a time when parties have to have very private conversations in negotiations,” Kochan said. “It’s time for the public discourse to stop. »

He said both sides needed to test whether a deal was possible. “They are professional negotiators and should be able to find the point where both sides can come to terms with a new deal.”

ABC News

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