GM strike, Day 3: Ripples spread to trucking, Canada

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers strike against General Motors Co. has started to slow the automaker's production outside of the U.S. — and at least one local trucking company is also starting to feel the pinch.

More: Everything you need to know about the UAW strike and corruption scandal

Dearborn-based Phoenix Transit and Logistics trucking company has been told deliveries to GM plants have been halted through at least Sunday. Parts can't be unloaded at the plants while employees are on strike — and striking UAW members haven't been keen to allow delivery vehicles and others access to the plants. In at least one instance, a picketing GM employee walked with child in front of a truck outside a GM plant.

Retired GM union member Roxanne Williams stood up to a semi-truck attempting to enter the GM Davison Road Processing Center in Burton, Mich.

"These trucks are not cheap to keep them running," Phoenix Transit and Logistics President Wael Tlaib told The Detroit news. His company runs about 100 trucks and 150 trailers, which deliver supplier parts to GM plants and dealerships around the country. "All these trailers loaded with GM parts are sitting in my yard and we can't move them because of the strike."

GM officials declined to comment on the deliveries. The company's GM Carrier Quality Management department notified all carriers Sunday night that a strike of GM plants loomed, but carriers should "continue to pick up material from our suppliers," according to emails obtained by The Detroit News. That changed Wednesday, Tlaib said, when GM began cancelling scheduled deliveries of supplier materials.

Meantime, GM Canada will temporarily lay off 1,200 employees at its Oshawa Assembly Plant in Ontario because some of the components to build trucks there are unavailable due to the walkout of 46,000 UAW employees across the United States. Canadian auto workers are represented by a different labor union and are not striking.

GM said one line at the Oshawa plant building where previous-generation full-size pickup trucks is built has been impacted.

The General Motors Assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, is seen in this November 26, 2018, file photo. GM Canada will temporarily lay off 1,200 employees at its Oshawa Assembly Plant because some of the components to build trucks there are unavailable due to the walkout of 46,000 UAW employees across the U.S.

No layoffs were announced for CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario, where the automaker builds the Equinox; or at St. Catharine Propulsion, where engines and transmissions are built.

"We continue to monitor the situation," a GM spokesman said.

Tlaib said the delivery halt costs him about $1,000 per truck. After a week, he's out $100,000, he said. His company also had trouble delivering during the first days of the strike earlier this week. Striking UAW members "harassed" a driver and threw a Diet Coke at his truck at a GM facility in Texas. Another set of striking members broke a mirror on one of Tlaib's trucks outside the GM CCA Parts Division in  Swartz Creek, Michigan.

"We put everything on hold," he said. 

UAW Region 1A Director Chuck Browning sent a letter of encouragement to Region 1A members Wednesday, thanking them for their "courage and determination."

"General Motors profits are made because of your intelligence, commitment, sweat and hard work," he wrote. "Your willingness to fight for a fair contract has impacts far beyond your own personal benefit. Your action will directly benefit our members at Ford and FCA, members throughout the UAW, our communities and the entire working class that exists in our country today."

Negotiations between GM and the UAW started early Wednesday as the national strike moved into the third day. By the end of the day, production losses for the automaker are expected to tally more than 23,000 vehicles, according to one analysis. That number could balloon to 43,000 by week's end. 

Negotiations between the UAW and GM continued on the second day of the strike Tuesday, with no progress reported

No significant progress was reported.

In the meantime, UAW-Ford vice president Rory Gamble in a Wednesday note to Ford membership said 11 of 20 subcommittees on the Ford bargaining committee had reached tentative agreements, but there "are still many larger economic and patterned issues remaining on the table." 

Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV negotiating teams must wait until GM and the UAW ratify a new agreement before proceeding with the larger points of their respective contracts, such as wage increases and health care. The UAW follows a practice called "pattern bargaining" which essentially means the lead company, GM, establishes a template for the other two automakers to follow once GM finalizes its contract.

The larger economic points agreed to with GM will play out in the other contracts, too.

"We will be fine tuning contractual language while we await our turn to lock down an agreement that we feel is fair and respectful to our great membership," Gamble wrote. 

UAW members at Romulus Powertrain on Wednesday.

Troy-based industry analysis company LMC Automotive U.S. Inc. said a strike of GM's U.S. assembly plants alone would cost the automaker 7,700 of lost production production per day, and 43,500 if the strike were to last a week.

But the UAW is also striking GM's U.S. powertrain and parts plants, meaning engines and other components are not getting to plants in Canada and Mexico, where workers are not striking. LMC did not provide an estimate of how badly production might be hindered in those countries due to supply chain problems.

Workers also will begin feeling financial strain. Strike pay for rank-and-file members is $250 per week, and workers would not get their first checks until a week after they file for their first 40 hours of strike pay.Union employees are not covered by GM health care benefits while on strike. But the UAW covers medical and prescription health care costs through the union's strike fund, or the fund will make payments to the company's health plan in accordance with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and GM department director, said in a letter Tuesday to local union leaders.

Lansing Local 652 picketers’ spirits were high on the morning of their third day striking at GM’s Lansing Grand River Assembly. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Lansing politicians have stopped to show the members they stand with them in their fight.

The status of temporary workers is of particular importance to the strikers.

“We have had temps in and out of our facility for years,” said Jeremy Landfair, a 23-year GM employee who works at Grand River. “We would like to see them become permanent.”

Scott Gaudard, a 19-year GM employee who also works at Grand River, agreed saying:  “It’s time to see temps be made full-time.”

Gaudard says he feels proud to be standing up for what he believes in with his union “brothers and sisters.”

“We are in it for the long haul,” he said.


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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

Detroit News staff writer Kalea Hall contributed