General Motors Co. workers called their first strike in 12 years, halting work at dozens of facilities across the US in a clash over jobs, pay and benefits.
The United Auto Workers called the strike effective at midnight Sunday, hours after the expiration of a four-year labor agreement. The strike comes after GM offered pay raises and bonus money, new products in eight US plants, $7 billion in investment and 5,400 new jobs. The union said GM is still not giving them enough.
“Going into bargaining season, our members have been very clear about what they will and will not accept from this contract,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said at a press conference. “We are standing up for wages, affordable health care and our share of the profits. We are standing up for job security for our members.”
The union is seeking pay raises for entry-level workers, who currently start at less than $20 an hour, and get them to the peak wage of almost $30 an hour in three or four years instead of the current grow-in period of eight years. Among other demands by UAW leaders is for GM to invest in US plants and possibly build new vehicles in some of the four plants that currently have no future models to build.
The backdrop to the negotiations has been marked by unprecedented chaos, with a federal corruption probe implicating the union’s president, Gary Jones, in a conspiracy to embezzle member dues and spend it on lengthy stays at luxury villas, golf equipment and cigars.
GM, meanwhile, has been under attack by President Donald Trump for scaling back its US workforce and idling plants in the key electoral battleground states of Michigan and Ohio.
Any deal the UAW reaches with GM will set a precedent for the jobs, wages, benefits that the union demands from Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. The union hasn’t said which carmaker it will target next for bargaining over a new contract.
GM angered the UAW and Trump by shutting down its Chevrolet Cruze compact car plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and scheduling the end of production at another factory in Hamtramck, near Detroit, for January. Two transmission plants, one in a Detroit suburb and another near Baltimore, have stopped operating.
Trump has weighed in by publicly calling for GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra to open the Lordstown plant or sell it. After praising Barra in May for trying to sell the facility to the financially troubled electric-truck maker Workhorse Group Inc., he resumed his attacks last month, then hosted the CEO at the White House on Sept. 5.
Federal agents arrested Vance Pearson, Jones’s successor as the head of the UAW’s largest region and a member of the union’s international executive board, on Sept. 12 and charged him with conspiracy and money laundering.
While Jones wasn’t named and hasn’t been charged, his home was raided late last month, and the government’s complaint mentions the search of a current UAW officer’s residence that turned up items similar to those Pearson is accused of buying with members’ dues.
Jones’s lawyer hasn’t responded to requests for comment.