DETROIT – It's back to business at Ren Cen on Saturday.
As of mid-afternoon, the General Motors team is still looking over the UAW engine offering that was delivered late Friday night. There are also meetings in progress in Ren Cen.
It is expected that the company will have a counter for the union at some point on Saturday.
Whether it will lead to the kind of marathon negotiations usually required to get a tentative deal is anyone's guess. In the meantime, rank and file breaks out their jackets and sweaters as they enter the bar for the 27th day, eagerly awaiting the news that it is a contract to consider.
More UAW-GM strike coverage:
Let's look back over the last 72 hours to get a perspective on what has happened, especially in the P.R. battle.
Late Friday night, UAW, in addition to the news of the counter-premium, made its press release, saying, "With this latest comprehensive proposal, if GM accepts and accepts this group of proposals, we will have a tent agreement." Thanks for stating the obvious! That's how the process works … in theory. It has not during this strike. The carefully selected words show the release was meant to evoke the exact headline I saw in one of the newspapers this morning; that things somehow come closer to a tentative deal. Let's not be torn here.
That counter came full five days after GM's last counter. That is definitely not how this should work, says former GM chief dealer Arthur Schwartz, Ph.D. Earlier Friday, he was shocked that the union was still working on a counter.
"They [GM] gave them [the UAW] an offer, a comprehensive offer, on Monday. It's Friday now, and they haven't received an answer? I would expect that if my members were on strike, I would be responding within hours, not days, "he said.
His point is that this process takes too long. He criticizes the association's slow move to inexperienced leadership living under the cloud of scandal. UAW President Gary Jones has not worked at the negotiating table like this before. He is also under federal investigation. Schwartz believes management is also reluctant to relinquish its original positions for fear that rank and file will not ratify.
On Thursday, this situation caught the attention of GM Managing Director Mary Barra, who had his own face-to-face meeting with all the main dealers on both sides. I am told that she admonished the union to settle this strike. She was frustrated that no counter had been offered Thursday.
The union found itself frustrated with GM's P.R. decisions regarding the Monday counter. The company published a press release detailing its version of the offer.
The union said that "since the beginning of this negotiation, GM has not taken the issue of our more than 48,000 members seriously. In fact, GM has at every stage tried to undermine the ongoing efforts of good faith UAW has made to end this strike. "The company's first-day strategy has been to play games at the expense of its workers. It has released half-truths, pulled away health care in the middle of the night and returned to previously weak and unacceptable suggestions in response to UAW's comprehensive solutions."
So now we have a union counter. What are the big talking points? Well Local 4 News confirmed Friday that GM was putting a significant increase in plant investment on the table. The original September 1
GM wants to build a new electric pickup at the former Volt plant. It is one of the four plants GM is awarded this time last year. The electric version of Silverado fits in with Mary Barra's total purchase of electric vehicles by 2025. Still, it's a small initial project and won't have much work to do with it. The truck project will not fill the Dham plant. It is likely that GM will later build an SUV of the same electric platform. Still, although this should make the union happy, it is not likely to move the needle much.
The union wants product commitments for all closed facilities. It also wants to protect the salaries of those who will end up working with electric vehicles in the future. Right now, in Brownstown, GM-UAW employees work under a cover letter that pays them much less per hour than usual rank and file. UAW wants to end such situations.
There are several other issues that are fighting the company. One is the company's desire to close the education center. The palace palace along the Detroit River near Stroh River Place is controversial. It's a very valuable piece of real estate now, and much of the corruption the feds have uncovered in their investigation of UAW stems from educational centers. UAW wants a slow running of the plant.
The union also wants better membership training as technology changes. Batteries are often replenished autonomously, it is 3D printing that is moving into the industry, and the union wants to ensure that the company offers good training and keeps good salaries going forward. None of this is easy, nor is it easy.
As Center for Automotive Research Analyst Kristin Dziczek has repeatedly told Local Four Viewers: "It always comes down to the things that are the economy, the core economy, the base salary increases, how many employees, what are the product guarantees, what is health care about being "The things that cost a lot of money. You can't solve one of them until you've solved them all."
Although there is considerable pressure building to settle, this is a long, hard road. At least now there are offers that are moving across the table.
Whether that continues is a big question. We are awaiting marathon talk and a possible run-off. It can come Saturday, Sunday, during the Lions game or even next Saturday. We wait and watch; while billions in financial losses increase.
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