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General Motors Co. union members have passed a strike authorization by 97 percent, UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said in a letter Monday.

Local unions representing GM’s about 50,800 hourly workers held strike authorization votes within the past few weeks. The votes are procedural and give the union the ability to call for a strike if necessary. It does not mean there will be a strike.

The four-year contract with the union is set to expire in two weeks.

“The resounding ‘yes’ vote enables your elected bargaining committee to leverage for the best agreement possible,” Estrada said in the letter to local union presidents and chairpersons posted on a UAW-GM Facebook page.

GM in a statement said the strike vote is part of the process that occurs during every contract.

“We remain committed to working with our UAW partners on an agreement that benefits employees and strengthens GM’s long-term competitiveness,” GM spokeswoman Katie McBride said.

This is the first year since 2007 that the union can strike GM or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The union agreed not to strike either company during the 2011 contract negotiations as a condition of the companies’ government bailouts.

FCA union members also have authorized a strike with a 97 percent favorable vote. Ford Motor Co. hourly employee strike authorization results have not been released.

Local union presidents and financial secretaries are being invited to a strike-assistance conference Thursday in Detroit, according to the update. Some union locals are setting up food banks and have been encouraging members to save money in case of a strike.

Estrada, in the letter, said the UAW’s GM bargaining committee has presented the automaker with hourly workers’ demands and will be meeting over the next several days to discuss them.

“Subcommittees have been working to move a number of tentatively resolved issues to the main table,” Estrada wrote. “Carryover language and many less contentious issues, including the bulk of health and safety and joint programs language, have been identified and tentatively agreed to.”

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

Twitter.com/MBurden_DN

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