Around 49,000 UAW-represented General Motors workers, including roughly 300 at the Kokomo GM Components Holding plant, are now on strike.
Local workers could be seen picketing at three locations – Goyer Road near the plant itself, the intersection of Ind. 931 and Boulevard and the intersection of Ind. 931 and Lincoln Road – beginning at midnight Monday.
Local UAW 292, which represents workers at the Kokomo GM plant, used its Facebook page to rally support for the strike. It’s the first nationwide UAW strike in more than a decade.
“YOU ARE NEEDED,” the union posted. “WE ARE WALKING OUT AT 11:59 p.m. Sept. 15 and UAW Local 292 needs the help and support of EVERY RETIREE...NEED YOU on the picket lines showing this community we stand in solidarity for all the union fights for... better wages, better healthcare & better working conditions for everyone!”
Messages left for local union representatives seeking comment were not returned.
The Kokomo GM plant produces components including semiconductors, engine and transmission control modules, crash sensing and diagnostics modules, pressure sensors, body computer modules and power electronics modules for multiple industries, according to the company’s website.
In a show of solidarity, Local UAW 685 has allowed Local 292 to use its union hall at 929 E. Hoffer St., to accept donations, such as water and bagged snacks, for striking workers, according to a Local 292 Facebook post.
About 200 plant-level union leaders voted unanimously in favor of a walkout during a meeting Sunday morning in Detroit. The strike does not include Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, whose contracts were extended indefinitely on Friday while the UAW tries to negotiate a deal with GM, which would likely become a template for the other two automobile companies.
Despite sides apparently far apart, the UAW says contract talks with General Motors will resume talks at 10 a.m. today. The strike will continue despite ongoing talks, however.
GM on Friday offered to build a new all-electric pickup truck at a factory in Detroit that is slated to close next year, according someone who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because that person wasn’t authorized to disclose details of the negotiations, which hadn’t been released to the public. The automaker also offered to open an electric vehicle battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where it has a plant that has already stopped making cars. The new factory would be in addition to a proposal to make electric vehicles for a company called Workhorse, the person said.
It’s unclear how many workers the two plants would employ. The closures, especially of the Ohio plant, have become issues in the 2020 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump has consistently criticized the company and demanded that Lordstown be reopened.
The UAW’s Rothenberg said the company made general statements about why it is planning to strike, but he would not comment further on GM’s offer. The union said it would strike for fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing, job security and a path to permanent employment for temporary workers.
In a statement, GM also said the offer made to the union on Saturday included more than $7 billion in U.S. factory investments and the creation of 5,400 new positions, a minority of which would be filled by existing employees. GM would not give a precise number. The investments would be made at factories in four states, two of which were not identified.
The statement also said the company offered “best in class wages and benefits,” improved profit sharing and a payment of $8,000 to each worker upon ratification. The offer included wage or lump sum increases in all four years of the deal, plus “nationally leading” health benefits.
Here are the main areas of disagreement:
• GM is making big money, $8 billion last year alone, and workers want a bigger slice. The union wants annual pay raises to guard against an economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers don’t want higher fixed costs.
• The union also wants new products for the four factories GM wants to close. The factory plans have irked some workers, although most of those who were laid off will get jobs at other GM factories. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity.
• The companies want to close the labor cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories. GM’s gap is the largest at $13 per hour, followed by Ford at $11 and Fiat Chrysler at $5, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research.
• Union members have great health insurance plans and workers pay about 4% of the cost. Employees at large firms nationwide pay about 34%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The automakers would like to cut costs.
The strike has the potential to hit the pocket books of both sides.
According to the Center for Automotive Research, GM lost about $300 million due to the 2007 strike. That strike lasted 17 hours.
The strike would hurt workers in the pocketbook as well, if not more, as workers who picket receive just $250 of strike pay a week until the UAW strike fund is depleted.