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Why General Motors workers are on strike throughout the country

Jessie Kelly knew there was an excellent chance she would end up on strike with General Motors. Long before her union, United Auto Workers, declared a work stoppage over the weekend, the 29-year-old mother of one began to sock away savings to prepare for a long battle with the carmaker in Detroit.

"I could live for three months," Kelly, an apprentice moldmaker at GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, told HuffPost. "I feel 1

00% that this strike is necessary."

No one knows how long the biggest car strike of more than a decade will last. But workers like Kelly have dug in and are not planning to bow. They look at how well GM has done in recent years – the company raised about $ 1969004 in $ 11 billion in pre-tax profits in 2018, and about $ 35 billion over the last three years – and wonder why they should not have it I have a bigger part of the pie.

"They blend us into a room every six months and praise these record-breaking profits, but they expect us to give back," Kelly said. "We just don't understand right now why the company still acts as if we are bankrupt when the last four years have been extremely profitable."

Her outlook goes a long way in explaining why nearly 50,000 UAW members have stopped production at more than 50 GM plants across the country. The union said on Sunday that the two sides remain far apart in the negotiations, with a number of outstanding issues to be resolved. But the root of the torment is not difficult to understand.

GM really wants to keep costs down as car sales slow down and the company makes bets on electric vehicles. But GM workers told HuffPost that they still remember the sacrifices the union gave when the industry was founded in 2007, before the company returned to profitability. The concessions they made at the time, including a two-tier payroll system, still cast a shadow over the current talks.

Although workers have shared in GM's strong performance since then, with profit sharing bonuses that could be in the top $ 10,000, they see no reason to bow to the company given its recent track record.

The negotiating table knows the biggest obstacles to a deal. The Union leadership has not shared its proposals with its members. GM unveiled a few parts of the offer, including promises to allocate production to two idle plants, a combined $ 7 billion investment in UAW-represented facilities, and $ 8,000 labor bonuses to ratify the contract – which the company considered a "strong offer" given in good faith.

But wage increases and other benefits were not specified. The union and GM could easily be a watchman for wage increases, health care costs and other, even more difficult issues that would be expected to be central to the talks. [19659002] Workers said they believe GM and the federation need to bridge the divide of class divisions, taking new workers eight years to reach the upper salary level of about $ 30 per hour earned by veterans in the longer term, which is better than in the wake of the financial crisis , as new employees had no way of reaching this rate at all – a compromise connected when the company went bankrupt

But many workers believe that the "in-progression" system, as it is known, is still too long struck. After all, it takes the duration of two collective bargaining agreements to complete it.

They also want to limit GM's use of temporary workers. The company says that about 7% of the US workforce is temporary workers, though the share can vary significantly from department to department and shift to shift. Some workers are delayed for two years or more before moving on to full-time and getting job security. GM may point to foreign-owned transplants such as Nissan, where temps are more prevalent, and ask for similar leeway.

In a letter to members Sunday, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said the outstanding issues include the payroll system in progression as well as "the treatment of temporary workers."

  Workers exiting the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, early Monday morning.

Workers exiting the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, early Monday morning.

Beth Baryo, a part trader at GM's processing center in Burton, Michigan, said ensuring that more temps converted to traditional status was a priority for her and her staff. Baryo started with GM in 2014. She was delayed for 18 months before being hired full-time, and she has yet to reach the top pay rate.

She was out on the fence line at her facility at midnight on Monday morning and found it difficult to convince some temporary workers to join the strike because they felt vulnerable. She estimated that almost half the department on her evening shift is temporary, in part because the shift is less desirable.

"They have temps that come in and are next to people making twice what they make … Many of them were afraid to even go out," Baryo said. "We had to explain them, & # 39; No, if you go out with us, [the union is] fighting for you. & # 39;"

She added, "I would be scared too."

Crain & # 39; s Detroit Business reported Monday that GM wants workers to carry a significantly larger share of health care. The workers generally have good health coverage and are responsible for around 3% or 4% of the costs. According to Crain & # 39; s GM's original offer, the proportion would have been 15% a proposal that the union rejected.

"They are trying to start eroding a lot of the progress our ancestors have made through the union," Baryo said.

Whatever the contract the union enters into with GM will serve as a template for the talks with Ford and Fiat Chrysler, the remaining two-thirds of the big three. But even though the UAW management can push an agreement with GM that they like, it doesn't mean it will go over with workers like Baryo.

When the union negotiated the last contracts with the big three four years ago, workers at Fiat Chrysler voted down the initial tentative agreement the union had secured. Their rejection eventually led to a better deal that allowed workers in progression to reach top pay. If rank-and-file GM workers don't like the offer placed before them, they can take a page from the 2015 ledger and vote it down, and send everyone back to the table.

The last strike on GM lasted only two days in 2007, causing minimal pain to the company and workers. A strike that lasts weeks will be far more damaging. Analysts say the closure of the plant could cost GM at least $ 50 million a day in sales. It would not be long before the strike became visible on the dealers' parties.

And even though the strike is only taking place in the United States, it can also damage production in Mexico and Canada due to the company's integrated production over North America.

In terms of workers, UAW has grown a healthy strike fund of more than $ 700 million, partly thanks to a temporary increase in contingents to prepare for this year's contract fight. But workers would still collect only $ 250 a week in strike pay, hardly enough to carry a single worker, let alone a family.

Kelly brought her 6-year-old son out to the bar on Sunday and to her union hall on Monday. Although a long work stoppage would be financially tempting, she said she felt reassured when she saw the feeling of unity among her co-workers.

"We as a membership have prepared to say that this can be a long strike," she said. “We stood by GM in bankruptcy. We made concessions and we understood why we needed it at that time. If this were 2007, it would be understandable. But not now, when it just seems like the greed of the company. ”

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