UAW authorizes strikes, picks GM as bargaining target
UAW President Gary Jones (left) shakes hands with General Motors CEO Mary Barra as contract talks began earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of General Motors

UAW authorizes strikes, picks GM as bargaining target

The union’s strike vote is a part of the four-year contract negotiation ritual.

September 4, 2019

Cleveland, Ohio – United Auto Workers negotiators have pick General Motors as the target company for ongoing contract talks with Detroit’s major automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The lead company is part of the UAW’s longstanding pattern bargaining strategy. The union picks whichever automaker it believes will offer the best labor deal and negotiates the four-year pact with that company first. It then encourages the others to take the same deal to ensure a level playing ground between GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

During 2015’s contract talks, FCA was the lead company.

The current UAW contract expires on Sept. 14, but the existing contract will almost certainly stay in place until the sides reach a deal, unless contract talks break down completely and negotiations cease. In 2015, the UAW didn’t reach a deal with FCA until nearly a weak after the contract expired, and workers didn’t ratify that deal until mid-October.

“(GM CEO) Mary Barra said from the outset of these talks that we will stand up as we tackle a changing industry. We are ready to stand strong for our future,” said UAW President Gary Jones. “We are focused. We are prepared and we are all ready to stand up for our members, our communities and our manufacturing future.”

UAW workers authorized the union to go on strike if it can’t reach deals with the OEMs, something that happens during each set of negotiations, typically right before final negotiations begin. And, as usual, the vote margins were overwhelmingly for strike authorization:

  • FCA 96.0%
  • Ford 96.0%
  • GM 96.4%

Autoworkers at all three companies narrowly approved their 2015 contracts after skilled trades workers at Ford initially rejected terms.

This year’s talks could become more interesting as the UAW is negotiating as scandals roil the labor group. FBI agents raided Jones’ home last week, part of an ongoing corruption case in which millions of dollars that were supposed to go to worker training at FCA and GM instead wound up paying for perks for UAW and company officials.

The probe has already led to convictions of five UAW officials and three FCA executives.

UAW officials have condemned the actions of former members convicted of corruption and said they are cooperating with law enforcement on the probe.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.