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United Auto Workers Votes For Nationwide Strike Against GM


The United Auto Workers union has told more than 49,000 General Motors workers nationwide to walk off the job just before midnight tonight Eastern Time. That's after the union failed to reach a new deal on a new four-year contract with GM. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is here to tell us more about it.

Welcome, Tracy.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: Thank you. Good to be here.

MCCAMMON: And you've been here covering these talks between GM and the UAW. How did we get to the point of a strike being just hours away?

SAMILTON: Well, I think this strike has been in the works for some time, especially after GM last year announced it was closing four of its U.S. plants and transferring the workers to other plants and after the UAW increased strike pay in March. And there are a lot more issues beside the plant closings. And the union and GM are really far apart on the - things like wage and profit sharing, health care benefits, permanent jobs for GM's temporary workers. And we've got - at the press conference today, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said this is something that they just could not get a contract in time. And here he is at the press conference.


TERRY DITTES: We do not take this lightly. This is our last resort. It represents great sacrifice and great courage on the part of our members and all of us.

MCCAMMON: And, Tracy, assuming that there is no deal before midnight tonight, what would a strike mean?

SAMILTON: Well, 49,000-plus GM workers walking off the job and then basically living on strike pay, which is a lot less than their usual paycheck, and then all of GM's factory production coming to a halt. It's probably going to be a short strike. But if it's protracted, you know, it could be a really big problem for General Motors.

MCCAMMON: And even before the strike announcement, the UAW has been in the news a lot recently. Tell us what else is going on with the union.

SAMILTON: Yeah. That's kind of like - the only thing you can say about that is oy. Four years ago, the FBI arrested a Fiat Chrysler official who created false tax returns to help some UAW officials to hide bribes. And since then, there have been four UAW officials admitting to taking bribes or kickbacks. And then the FBI recently raided the home of the union's president, Gary Jones, and the home of the former president, Dennis Williams. So this is a really, really big deal.

MCCAMMON: And very briefly, Tracy, how does that play into this larger labor dispute?

SAMILTON: It is casting a big shadow over the talks and the strike. You know, the UAW says, oh, the rank and file are just focused on getting a good contract. But really, workers are - they're watching this just as we are, and it may, in fact, make them not trust that whatever deal they do get is a good one.

MCCAMMON: All right. That's Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton.

Tracy, thank you.

SAMILTON: Good to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.