- Proposals continue to be rejected on both sides as the United Auto Workers enters day 24 of its strike against General Motors.
- UAW vice president Terry Dittes said union leaders "don't understand GM's opposition" to reducing its Mexican exports to the United States.
- The UAW also does not want GM to prioritize production on electric or autonomous vehicles even though the automaker promised a new battery plant in Ohio.
UPDATE 10/10/19: General Motors CEO Mary Barra met in person with the UAW's president and vice president today, Automotive News reported. The paper noted this was the first involvement Barra has had directly with negotiations since the existing contract between the UAW and GM expired nearly a month ago, and said the reason for the meeting was "to help fast-track" the negotiations.
As the United Auto Workers marks its 24th day on strike against General Motors, the union is demanding that GM stop importing all cars from foreign assembly plants and kill its transition to an all-electric lineup.
According to a letter posted Tuesday by UAW vice president Terry Dittes, the union is seeking "job security" beyond the wage increases, health-care benefits, and protections for temporary workers it outlined in the initial strike. Some 46,000 hourly employees have been out since September 16, which has halted production in U.S. plants.
"We have made it clear that there is no job security for us when GM products are made in other countries for the purpose of selling them here in the U.S.A.," Dittes said in a statement. "We believe that the vehicles GM sells here should be built here. We don’t understand GM’s opposition to this proposition."
These demands, which align with President Trump's agenda in supporting American manufacturing and penalizing companies that outsource labor, would mean GM would no longer import cars from Mexico, Canada, or China. It would then have to keep building "traditional" vehicles that aren't electric or autonomous, according to more UAW sources speaking to the Detroit Free Press. That also aligns with the latest EPA rule that lowers requirements for EVs.
GM offered the UAW a new contract on Monday after the automaker rejected a previous union proposal over the past weekend. The UAW has not commented whether it will accept the new proposal. A General Motors spokesman told Car and Driver on Tuesday, "Talks continue and we are working hard to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business."
While the China-built Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid and Buick Envision are likely to disappear regardless of the current 25 percent tariff, it is extremely implausible that GM would agree to stop imports within the NAFTA region even after the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is ratified. Calls to halt EVs and automated cars would appear to hurt the very workers the UAW is representing.
GM has committed to building the nation's "first union-represented battery cell manufacturing plant" in Ohio as part of a $7 billion investment over the next four years. It also is negotiating "solutions" for the Michigan and Ohio assembly plants that are now sitting idle, but there's no word on the transmission and electric motor plant shuttered in Baltimore.
The UAW has long voiced opposition to domestic automakers importing vehicles for the U.S. market. In a video last year, Dittes said that GM exports 80 percent of its Mexico-made cars for sale to the U.S. Under Trump's USMCA, companies qualifying for duty-free trade to the U.S. from Mexico would have to increase employee wages to averages of $16 per hour, or nearly quadruple the wage in Mexico today. Trump has also threatened (but not implemented) tariffs of 5 percent on Mexico-built cars and 25 percent on any other foreign-built car. The goal, however heavy-handed, is to incentivize American businesses to keep production in this country.
But that's a tall order today, 25 years after NAFTA went into effect. Mexican plants built a quarter of the nearly 17 million light-duty vehicles produced in North America last year. According to the International Trade Administration, U.S. suppliers represent a third of all original equipment parts suppliers in Mexico. If the UAW thinks GM would disrupt a profitable business in Mexico, such a deal would probably come at the cost of more union jobs.
Dittes said the UAW is "willing to discuss other ways" to keep more production in America, although the union makes it clear it wants to reduce the number of imported GM vehicles by increasing production at its U.S. factories. How far the UAW can nudge GM CEO Mary Barra in that direction remains to be seen.
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