GM strike day 27: UAW to increase strike pay to $275 per week

Kalea Hall Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers' executive board on Saturday voted to move up a 10% increase to striking members' pay by more than two months.

The increase to $275 per week starts Sunday. Some 46,000 hourly General Motors Co. employees will have been on strike for four weeks living off $250 per week from the union's strike fund, which totaled $721 million at the end of 2018. Top-paid production employees earn around $1,220 for a 40-hour week.

Strike pay was scheduled to increase by $25 per week starting Jan. 1.

“UAW members and their families are sacrificing for all of us,” UAW President Gary Jones said in a statement Saturday. “We are all standing together for our future. This action reflects the UAW commitment and solidarity to all of our members and their families who are taking a courageous stand together to protect our middle-class way of life.”

GM declined to comment.

The pay increase also will lift a restriction on other part-time earnings picketers at GM and Aramark Corp., a janitorial services company whose UAW-represented employees also are on strike, can collect. Before, members couldn't earn $250 or more per week and collect full strike pay. Now, they may earn as much as they can and still collect the $275 so long as they perform their picket duties.

"We're in this fight to win," said Glenn Kage, president of UAW Local 2250 in Wentzville, Missouri. "Our members are ecstatic. The biggest thing is lifting the restriction on how much they can make. That is a 10% pay increase."

This would be the second strike pay increase this year for the UAW. At a special bargaining convention in March, delegates voted to increase strike pay by $50 per week — a signal the union was serious about a work stoppage this negotiation round with the Detroit Three.

The announced increase comes as talks continued between GM and the UAW after the Detroit automaker reviewed a counterproposal that the union submitted to GM on Friday night. Negotiators paused before 11 p.m. Saturday for the night with plans to resume their work in the morning.

The union's proposal is a counter to the offer GM made on Monday. The proposal included "all of your outstanding proposals that are at the main table and unsettled," UAW Vice President Terry Dittes wrote in a letter to local union leaders Friday. If GM accepts, "we will have a Tentative Agreement," he wrote.

As the UAW's national strike against GM stretches toward a fifth week, the Impact is weaker than it would have been in decades past.

Dittes said union representatives would work through the weekend in hopes of reaching a settlement to end a nationwide strike by 46,000 workers that is nearing the one month mark. His letter did not disclose any of the proposal's terms.

GM's latest offer to the UAW included $2 billion more in investment by the company than an offer it made four weeks ago.

In total, GM would commit to $9 billion worth of direct and indirect investments. Of that, $7.7 billion would be direct investments, including building an electric truck at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. That factory is among four GM facilities in the U.S. that were to be idled. In the 2015 contract, GM had pledged $8.3 billion in investments.

The offer also includes increases in employee compensation, as well as retaining health care coverage and creating a pathway for temporary employees to become permanent, according to a letter GM sent Friday to hourly and salaried employees. No specifics were given.

In an escalating war of words between the two sides on Friday, the union responded with a strong statement saying at every step in negotiations GM "has attempted to undermine the ongoing, good-faith efforts the UAW has made to end this strike."

Twitter: @bykaleahall