UAW workers strike at GM plants nationwide

DETROIT — Members of the United Auto Workers went on strike at General Motors Co. plants nationwide at midnight Sunday night, sending 46,000 workers to picket lines in the union’s first walkout since the automaker emerged from taxpayer-funded bankruptcy a decade ago.

The UAW on Sunday night said “dialogue is continuing” with the Detroit automaker, but a GM spokesman said talks were halted amid an increasingly acrimonious atmosphere and an unorthodox response by GM that breaks with decades of bargaining protocol. The UAW said a bargaining session is scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday.

As the clock struck just before midnight, workers streamed out of the GM Flint Assembly Plant and moved toward their vehicles on the lots. In single lines and orderly fashion, their shift done, they drove onto Van Slyke Road, just across from UAW Local 598’s headquarters, to the sounds of car horns piercing the night.

Pickets had massed outside the plant and were chanting: “One union” and “Mighty, might union” as more and more workers joined the picket line as rain competed with the union shouts and honking horns.

Ray Atherton from Flushing stood across Van Slyke smiling, watching vehicles exit early Monday, saying it reminded him of the strike in 1998: “This is my third one,” said Atherton, a GM truck driver for 25 years. “In ‘98, we were out for 56 days. I hope it doesn’t go that long.”

About 100 others gathered Monday morning at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where UAW members, some representing workers from Detroit’s Big 3, carried signs and sported red UAW shirts. What happens at GM, they said, sets the tone for the rest of them.

“UAW —we’re all a big family,” said Louie Pahl, president of Local 1700 at Fiat Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Ford, GM or Chrysler, Aramark … anything that’s UAW, we’re all brothers and sisters. We’re all from the same family when it comes down to it.”

Temp worker Chrishonda Starks, 41, of Flint said she wanted to hear how GM’s temporary employees would be addressed in a new contract. Like Atherton, she wants the two-tier wage scale abolished.

“It’s hard,” she said. “I have to tell people … who have served less time to hang in there and that it’ll be worth it when they receive a permanent position.”

President Donald Trump earlier had weighed in: “Here we go again with General Motors and the United Auto Workers,” he wrote on Twitter. “Get together and make a deal!”

In a surprisingly detailed response to Sunday’s strike announcement and before the walkout, GM outlined its offer to the union that promises more than $7 billion in investments over the life of a new contract. It said it would create more than 5,400 jobs, boost base wages, pay lump-sum bonuses, improve benefits —and, The Detroit News has learned, rescue its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant from closure and build a new battery plant near the idled Lordstown plant in Ohio.

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight,” the automaker said in a statement Sunday. “We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.”

Executive Vice President Gerald Johnson on General Motors’ negotiations with the United Auto Workers General Motors

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes sent a letter to Scott Sandefur, vice president of Labor Relations at GM, on Sunday stating: “Over the last two months, we have met with GM representatives countless times in an effort to resolve many important issues raised by our members.”