GM strike, day 12: Negotiations ongoing after long night

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Negotiations between General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers resumed Friday morning after talks went to 2 a.m.

It is the latest into the night that talks have stretched since the strike began Sept. 15. That could signal a tentative agreement could be reached soon.

But even if a tentative agreement is reached, the national strike, which includes some 45,000 hourly GM employees, including more than 17,000 in Michigan, could last several more days if local union leaders decide to wait to the end the strike until after the contract is ratified. The protest already is the longest national strike against GM since 1970.

The UAW's strike against General Motors entered its 12th day Friday.

All unsettled issues are at the "main table" as of Wednesday. The union and the Detroit automaker will go back and forth until a deal is reached, Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and director of its GM department, said in a letter to local leaders at the time.

GM on Thursday gave one major indication it was looking to move forward with the union. The company reversed its decision and said it would pay for striking employees' health care. Last week, it had said it had shifted that responsibility to the union, a move that drew backlash from the UAW, other labor organizations and Democratic presidential candidates. The coverage includes medical and prescription drugs as well as dental and vision, categories that the union's strike fund would not have covered.

The automaker this week also took steps to ensure that companies who ferry parts between suppliers and GM manufacturing sites are ready when work can resume. Leslie Woods, customer logistics manager for GM Quality Carrier Management for Ryder System Inc. in Novi, said in a letter to the companies Wednesday that it was "a good idea to start the conversation of preparedness."

But Democratic presidential candidates still are making plans to visit picket lines: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, plans to visit picketers in Reno on Saturday.

He follows other candidates, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have visited Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke also visited striking employees around the country.

The strike is the UAW's first since the Great Recession and GM's federally induced bankruptcy in 2009. Strikers will start to feel the financial impact of the impasse this week.

Strike pay is $250 per week, but it won't be distributed until the 15th day of picketing. The starting wage for temporary production workers at GM is $15.78 per hour, which is about $630 per week. Top-paid production employees, however, earn $30.46 per hour, or about $1,218 per week.

The Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group estimates costs to GM have ballooned from $2 million per day initially to around $25 million now. Some Wall Street analysts have forecasted costs to the company to be $50 million per day or more.

The strike also has affected GM facilities in Ohio and Ontario not represented by the UAW. All told more than 3,200 GM workers represented by other unions have been laid off. On Monday, the automaker notified 525 employees at its DMax Ltd. plant in Moraine, Ohio, that they were temporarily laid off. The plant would not be producing engines for the GMC and Chevrolet pickups there during the strike at UAW-represented GM plants.

GM suppliers, such as Nexteer Automotive, also said they temporarily have had to lay off employees during the strike.

The union this week also said it is holding another "Solidarity Sunday" this weekend and until ratification, encouraging the public to join its members on the picket lines. Local chaplains will be on site to offer words of encouragement at noon.