Auto workers vow to strike at midnight if GM holds firm

/ CBS/AP

FBI raids home of UAW president

A United Auto Workers official said the union's General Motors workers will strike if the automaker "refuses to give even an inch" in contract negotiations. UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg siad in a news release that such a strike would begin Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.

The union let its contract with GM expire on Saturday, raising the possibility of a strike. UAW leaders were meeting Sunday in Detroit to discuss the union's next steps.

Union leaders have said the two sides are far apart on economic issues.

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"We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our Members, their families and the communities where we work and live," said UAW Vice President Terry Dittes.

GM said in a statement Saturday night that it still held out hope for an agreement, saying it continues to work on solutions to difficult challenges.

A strike by 49,200 union workers would bring to a halt GM's U.S. production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well. That would mean fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and it would make it impossible to build specially ordered cars and trucks.

The union's executive board was to meet early Sunday to talk about the union's next steps, followed by a meeting in Detroit of plant-level union leaders from all over the country. An announcement was scheduled for after the meetings end.

If there is a strike, it would be the union's first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.

The move by the union also comes as it faces an internal struggle over a federal corruption investigation that has touched its president, Gary Jones. Some union members are calling for Jones to step down while the investigation continues. But Friday night, union leaders did not remove Jones.

Union officials surely will face questions about the expanding investigation that snared a top official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It's the same region that Jones led before taking the union's top office last year. Jones has not been charged.

On Friday, union leaders extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely, but the pact with General Motors was still set to expire Saturday night.

The union has picked GM, which is more profitable than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, as the target company, meaning it's the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout. Picket line schedules already have been posted near the entrance to one local UAW office in Detroit.

Talks between the union and GM were tense from the start, largely because GM plans to close four U.S. factories. The union has promised to fight the closures.

Main areas of disagreement

– GM is making big money, $8 billion last year alone, and workers want a bigger slice. The union wants annual pay raises to guard against an economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers don't want higher fixed costs.

– The union also wants new products for the four factories GM wants to close. The factory plans have irked some workers, although most of those who were laid off will get jobs at other GM factories. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity.

– The companies want to close the labor cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM's gap is the largest at $13 per hour, followed by Ford at $11 and Fiat Chrysler at $5, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories.

– Union members have great health insurance plans but workers pay about 4% of the cost. Employees of large firms nationwide pay about 34%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The companies would like to cut costs.

First published on September 15, 2019 / 11:09 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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