Here things stand on the UAW-GM strike

DETROIT – Picket lines continue at GM US facilities this morning for the 13th day.

The ranking and file are now just two days away from qualifying for their $ 250 strike salary. It looks quite likely that they will get to that milestone unless something dramatically changes inside the downtown Detroit Renaissance Center negotiating rooms .

It is clear that the conversations have failed. The teams have continued to work on main table calls since last Wednesday. Still, all we hear from them is that they talk late at night, turn off and get some sleep and then return to the table in the morning.

Many wonder 'what is taking so long?' There are many reasons. But let's turn this strike down to bare bones to get some insight into what is happening and why it is so elusive to get over the finish line.

The national UAW-GM contract is at heart an exercise in the company that buys the workforce over the next four years.

Understandably, GM wants to get it as cheap as it can. Yes, it wants to maintain profitability, but it also wants to try to stay competitive with the transplant plants especially Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

They pay their labor forces that are not unions about ten dollars an hour less. The company also wants to try to get some control over health care costs, which shoot up every year. Another massive variable is the effort GM CEO Mary Barra makes by sending the company whole hog to electric vehicles. The capital requirements for this are eye-catching.

UAW, for its part, wants to make GM postpone much more than budgeted because the union took out concession contracts during the bankruptcy and early turning years.

Given that the company has made the largest profits ever in the last four years, around $ 35 billion, UAW estimates that there is no shortage of money to pass.

All this makes sense, it's a negotiation. But what many people may not know is why they have trouble meeting in the middle, is that long-term conversations are more about budget management than anything else.

Despite the union's desire and efforts to get the "cake" expanded by the company, it is rare. So what's really happening now can be likened to a sculptor with a bunch of clay.

The camp is the company's budgeted amount for labor until 2023 and transforms it into something comfortable enough for the sake of rank and file.

So if the union wants fixed salary increases every year as opposed to the bonuses GM offers along with the profit sharing, you have to take money from something else … like health care.

Nevertheless, the Union is determined to keep its Cadillac health plan intact or even improved. Well, okay. But membership only pays around 3% of the cost, while most Americans pay an average of 28%.

So OK, we keep that amount there, then something else has to give. So there are fewer dollars to give to temps that the union wants to put on a path to full-time jobs.

Now you begin to understand the problem here. It's the same problem you and I have at the kitchen table every day trying to make ends meet.

Ultimately, it is the union's management that will last an hour longer than the company. As the strike continues, it becomes more expensive, puts stress on the company's main line, the leadership holds the hope that the company will come in and add more clay to their sculpture.

That's probably where we are now. Let's not forget, UAW management has problems. The corruption scandal is clouding the whole process.

The same management took everyone on strike for the promise that they could break the bank if everyone would just stand up to the greedy company.

Both management and GM are now talking day in and day out with the underlying concern the membership is waiting and watching and has high expectations.

Inside the Renaissance Center, both sides know if the contract is not rich enough, the membership will kick it back to the negotiating table. Thus, we have been ready to keep everyone on strike until ratification takes place.

As the gripping old veteran of this type of negotiation, I think back to the 1[ads1]998 Flint strike, the most divisive and expensive strike of this type of UAW ever fought against GM. It wasn't a national contract, it was a local dispute at the Flint Metal Center and then the old Delphi division.

That strike lasted 58 days. I remember being in the auditorium at the University of Michigan Flint when the local management of Delphi UAW read the details of the contract.

Ranking and file were furious. "You took us on strike for two months to get this (explosive)?" They said. It wasn't rich enough. The membership needed to get back to work, it held its nose and ratified what everyone in the room thought was a disastrous contract.

Weeks later, the rank and file immediately moved to vote out all management who negotiated the deal. It can easily happen this time.

So hurry and wait. We will continue to look for encouraging signs, and the calls for solidarity will continue forever beyond GM plants.

This debate could end today, tonight, tomorrow or next Friday. There is some guesswork. Now much depends on how much endurance the negotiating teams have left. At least now, you know why this is taking so long.


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