GM strike, day 5: More workers furloughed, UAW chief breaks silence
More General Motors Co. workers in Canada and Ohio could be furloughed because of the 46,000 hourly United Auto Workers employees striking the Detroit automaker for the fifth day.
Another 700 GM employees who assemble cars at Oshawa Assembly in Ontario have been temporarily laid off because some components were unavailable due to the U.S. walkout, GM spokesman Dan Flores said Friday. Canadian auto workers are represented by a different union and are not striking. Some 1,300 employees who assemble pickup trucks there already have been affected. More temporary layoffs could be on the way.
GM has notified the 525 employees at its DMax Ltd. plant in Moraine, Ohio, that it will not be producing engines for the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks there starting Monday if the strike persists, Flores said.
DMax is a joint venture with Isuzu Diesel Services of America Inc. Its employees are members of the industrial division of the Communications Workers of America, the IUE-CWA, not the UAW and are therefore not on strike. The engines they produce go to Flint, where workers are picketing.
"We're not making pickups," Flores said. "We don't need engines."
Two of three lines at St. Catharines Propulsion Plant in Ontario also could go offline on Monday, affecting 700 employees, according to Canadian labor union Unifor. CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario, is expected to run next week, though that could be under review by the week's end, if needed, Unifor added.
"As the strike goes along, we will monitor this and will adjust on an ongoing basis," Flores said.
Labor talks between GM and the UAW began early Friday morning, said UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg. The two sides are working through differences on job security, health care and seniority for temporary employees, among other issues. The negotiators had made "some progress," Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and GM department director, said in a letter Thursday to local leaders. He, however, added many issues "remain unresolved" and said bargaining would continue into the weekend, if needed.
UAW President Gary Jones in a letter Friday broke his silence to encourage all UAW members to join GM and Aramark Corp. picket lines on Sunday. Philadelphia-based Aramark provides janitorial services to five GM facilities in Michigan and Ohio, including Warren Tech Center. They went on strike Saturday night.
"We are inviting people of faith and others to join the picket lines in support as we recognize one full week since the start of this fight for a strong contract," Jones wrote, noting local union chaplains would be on the picket lines at noon Sunday. "As you know, strike can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting on our membership and their families."
Jones also took a swipe at GM, which stopped paying for striking employees' health care when they walked out Sunday: "We sincerely hope that these services provide everyone with a peaceful opportunity to come together to show support for those on the picket lines and those who have been wrongfully stripped from their quality healthcare by General Motors."
GM has said medical health care still is being provided, though it is being paid for through the union.
Jones' letter is his first public statement since he was implicated last week in a widening federal corruption investigation that has led to charges against 11 people and nine convictions. The Detroit News identified Jones and his predecessor, Dennis Williams, as unnamed union officials who allegedly participated in a years-long conspiracy that involved embezzling member dues and spending the money on personal luxuries, according to an affidavit filed with charges against Vance Pearson, Jones' successor and UAW Region 5 director. New charges were filed Friday against Jeff Pietrzyk, the former top aide to UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.
"We know this (corruption) has been going on," 23-year GM employee Meoshee Edwards, 47, of Harper Woods said while picketing at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Friday. "But that's not us. That's not who we are. We're the workers who get up every day and do the job over and over and over again."
Labor talks had wrapped up around 9 p.m. Thursday, Rothenberg said. The late session is a good sign, said Edwards, an alternate committee member for the UAW.
"I had heard things were not going very well," she said. Once the negotiators are able to stay at the table until 9 p.m., she said, "that's good because they're not getting up and leaving. I think they had been over the corruption."
On Friday, GM hourly employees also were set to get their paychecks for the previous week's work, UAW members said. Next week would be when strikers will start to feel the impact of the impasse financially, economists have said. Strike pay is $250 per week, while the starting wage for temporary production workers at GM is $15.78 per hour, or about $630 per week.
Domanique Henry, 28, of Detroit has worked on the assembly line at Detroit-Hamtramck for four years. She says she is hoping for all GM employees to be paid the same if they do the same jobs.
"We want it to be equal," Henry said on the picket line Friday. "We do the same jobs and don't get the same pay and rights." She said no contract should be ratified until "it's equal."
The strike is costing Michigan workers roughly $9.3 million per day in lost earnings, including $2.5 million from suppliers, the Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group consulting firm said Friday. Losses in income tax revenue result in losses of about $445,000 per day to the state. With expected decreases from sales taxes as workers spend less during the impasse, that loss could be even more.
"In terms of tax losses to the state, it’s not a significant loss for the first week," said Patrick Anderson, CEO of the economic group. "But if it goes past the first week, the damage moves up the supply chain. Sometime next week there will be more non-UAW workers furloughed than there will be UAW workers. You will see significant business loss."
At that point, Michigan, especially southeast Michigan as well as northern Ohio and the area around Fort Wayne, Indiana, could be facing a recession, Anderson said.
His firm also estimated GM's net economic cost during the strike's first few days to be around $2 million per day and growing to around $16 million Friday. That is significantly less than the $50 million or more that Wall Street analysts forecast earlier this week. Anderson estimated GM's total loss for the week would be $25 million.
"I am very concerned there is an impression created by these Wall Street numbers that there's a pot of gold for GM to hand over to the UAW, and we’re only arguing over how much of the pot of gold goes to the workers," he said. "I don’t want people thinking there is $100 million a day just waiting for them. There’s not."
In addition to GM's furloughed employees in Canada, the supply chain has seen some effects this week. Auburn Hills-based Nexteer Automotive said Wednesday it would temporarily reduce its workforce because of the strike, though it declined to say by how much. The company supplies electric and hydraulic power steering systems, steering columns and driveline systems to the Detroit Three and foreign automakers.
Others have sought to balance their plant workloads to concentrate on other customers when possible, though by now, most North American supplier plants shipping product to GM will have had to adjust their production schedules, according to the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
The also has affected trucking companies like Dearborn-based Phoenix Transit and Logistics. The Detroit News reported Wednesday GM told the company deliveries to GM plants are halted through at least Sunday.
GM's affected Oshawa plant in Canada is one of the five North American plants the automaker in November identified to be "unallocated" without production, another major grievance for the striking UAW members. Unifor struck a deal with GM in May to keep Oshawa operating for stamping, sub-assembly and miscellaneous activities.
In a statement GM released Sunday after the UAW announced its strike, it noted it had offered the union "solutions" to two unallocated plants in the United States. The automaker previously said it had a deal with Lordstown Motors Corp., an affiliate of electric truck start-up Workhorse Group, to sell Lordstown Assembly in northeast Ohio after negotiations concluded. GM also wants to put an electric truck at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and open a battery-cell manufacturing facility near Lordstown in Ohio's Mahoning Valley, The Detroit News confirmed Sunday.
"It's not just D-Ham," Edwards said. "We're the United Auto Workers. It's all the plants. We want solutions and jobs for everyone affected."