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Why You Should Care About UAW Contracts, Which Expire This Week

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Image credit: J. Carlisle Larsen

The United Auto Workers have decided to focus its negotiating power on General Motors following a string of plant closings.

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Editor’s note: WDET reporters are members of the Professional and Administrative Union, Local 1979, UAW.

United Auto Workers contracts with Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler expire September 14th. Since July, the union has been negotiating new contracts with the each of the “Big Three” carmakers. As of this week, the UAW has decided to focus its efforts on negotiating a contract with GM.

Click on the player above to hear Paul Eisenstein of TheDetroitBureau.com talk union negotiations and the ongoing corruption investigation.

Paul EisensteinJake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Paul Eisenstein

WDET: Why is the union focusing its bargaining efforts on General Motors?

Paul Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau: The union negotiates separate contracts with each of the ‘Big Three.’ Normally they pick a carmaker they think can give them the best or most important contract. The UAW used to call it a ‘strike target.’ They try to avoid the word ‘strike’ these days.

GM was likely picked as a target because it announced plans to close five plants in North America by the end of 2019. Of those, it’s already closed plants in Lordstown, OH; White Marsh, Baltimore; and Warren, MI. Production is shifting at a plant in Oshawa, Ontario from assembly to stamping. The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant was slated to close this year but production has been extended there until 2020.

After the union finishes negotiations with GM, it will move on to Fiat Chrysler or Ford.

UAW leaders have been convicted of taking bribes from Fiat Chrysler and now there are allegations of kickbacks involving GM. How might this impact negotiations?

Workers are now questioning if their leaders sold out the union in the past in order to profit personally. They may feel like they didn’t get what they deserved in the last couple rounds of negotiations because leaders might not have been as demanding, if they were taking bribes. As a result, union workers may ask for more this time around.

So, should we expect a strike?

UAW members voted on whether or not to authorize leaders to strike. More than 95 percent of members voted that they support strikes, if need be, against any of the Big Three car companies. This doesn’t necessarily mean they want to strike or that they will strike. It simply gives their leadership the power to authorize a strike if they deem it necessary.

Laura Herberg, Community Reporter

Laura Herberg is a Community Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here. She has reported since 2010 without owning a car.

Follow @HerbergRadio

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