UAW Workers in Lansing, Around the Nation Strike

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DETROIT - Thousands of United Auto Workers walked off the job at General Motors plants around the country Monday in the first nationwide strike against the U.S. auto industry since 1976.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said that job security was the top unresolved issue, adding that the talks did not stumble over a groundbreaking provision establishing a UAW-managed trust that will administer GM's retiree health care obligations. Gettelfinger complained about "one-sided negotiations."

"It was going to be General Motors' way at the expense of the workers," Gettelfinger said at a news conference. "The company walked right up to the deadline like they really didn't care."

Gettelfinger added that the union and GM's management would return to the table Monday.

Workers walked off the job and began picketing Monday outside GM plants after the late morning UAW strike deadline passed. The UAW has 73,000 members who work for GM at 82 U.S. facilities, including assembly and parts plants and warehouses.

General Motors Corp. had been pushing hard in the negotiations for the health care trust — known as a Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, or VEBA — so it could move $51 billion in unfunded retiree health costs off its books. GM has nearly 339,000 retirees and surviving spouses.

"This strike is not about the VEBA in any way shape or form," Gettelfinger said at an afternoon news conference in Detroit.

"The No. 1 issue here is job security," Gettelfinger later said, adding that the union also was fighting to preserve workers' benefits.

GM spokesman Dan Flores said the automaker was disappointed in the UAW's decision to call a national strike.

"The bargaining involves complex, difficult issues that affect the job security of our U.S. work force and the long-term viability of the company," he said. "We remain fully committed to working with the UAW to develop solutions together to address the competitive challenges facing GM."

It remained to be seen what effect the strike would have on the automaker and consumers. The company has sufficient stocks of just about every product to withstand a short strike, according to Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis for J.D. Power and Associates.

Worker Anita Ahrens burst into tears as hundreds of United Auto Workers streamed out of a GM plant in Janesville, Wis.

"Oh my God, here they come," said Ahrens, 39. "This is unreal."

Ahrens has seven years at the plant, where she works nights installing speakers in sport utility vehicles. She waited outside the building Monday for her husband, Ron Ahrens, who has worked there for 21 years.

The couple has three children, including a college freshman, and Ahrens worried about how they would pay their bills.

"This is horrible, but we're die-hard union, so we have to," Ahrens said. "We got a mortgage, two car payments and tons of freaking bills."

Gettelfinger said he believed the UAW's leadership owed "our membership an answer as to why they're out there."

"This is as serious as anything that any of us do," he said. "There's not one person on this stage ... that wanted to see these negotiations end in a strike. Who wins in a strike? But again, you can be pushed off a cliff, and that's what we feel like happened here."

Despite the strike, GM stock rose a penny to $34.95 in midday trading.
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  • by Rick Location: Stockbridge on Sep 25, 2007 at 08:45 PM
    Stu in GR, You sir are delusional. Real courage is starting your own business, setting your own wage, and marketing yourself. Doing so alone, not in a mob, is courage. And Matt in Lansing, you are a union parrot, repeating the rhetoric that they spew at you. Reality is: the union has never built a plant, the union never built a car, and the union never sold a car. These actions were all accomplished by PEOPLE. Unions only serve to make union administrators rich and powerful, and screw anyone that gets in their way....even if it costs YOU your job. You can bet that Ronnie-Boy will never miss a paycheck, even if GM were to fold. He stands to lose very little personally. THAT should tick you off!
  • by connie Location: perry on Sep 25, 2007 at 05:46 PM
    i agree with Doreen from holt, i'm a widow, i depend on g.m for my health-insurance, also i recieve a small pension check, i live from month to month, so goes the idea that we live so high, i'm thankful for what i have and now i pray to God that it won't be taken from me.we should leave well enough alone. G.m doesn't need us we need them.
  • by Matt Location: Lansing on Sep 25, 2007 at 01:37 PM
    If Gm leaves Lansing; Lansing will become Flint; and everybody who wants to work for minimum wage or live off from welfare can have this city, although it seems as though those who did not aquire the needed job skills are in envy of those who did, I cannot see as to why this hatred is directed towards the union membership. It is largely due to them that the Lansing area is not 100% slums. Do a quick economical study on the financial impact of General Motors in the Lansing area. Unions are directly responsible for many of the benefits that non-union employees enjoy, and take for granted daily. 401(K)'s an offshoot from pensions won by unions. Forty hour work weeks, again, won by unions; Health Benefits check, and the list goes on. They may call this trickle down economics. THOSE THAT OPPOSE STRIKING ARE ONLY THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO DO SO THEMSELVES.
  • by Kelly Location: Jackson on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:35 AM
    When GM decides to close their doors and move, what will all the union people do for employment? What else are they trained to do? What are their employable skills? Is there another employment market for them? Perhaps they need to rethink their employment value before GM tells them not to let the door hit them on the way out.
  • by shelley Location: lansing on Sep 25, 2007 at 08:56 AM
    People don't envy your jobs or love to have your jobs because of the union or benefits. Many just want a job. Too many people are out of work or fear loosing their jobs for you people to have temper tantrums. Welcome to the real world. People are loosing their homes and can't afford to feed their family, while you stand alongside the road looking for support for better benefits than most of the country. No support here. Go back to work. Or give the jobs up to those who need jobs.
  • by Rick Location: Stockbridge on Sep 25, 2007 at 08:20 AM
    Unions need to go away. They cause more harm than good anymore. Striking, is an attempt to increase egg production by strangling the chicken. I hope that plants close, unions get even weaker, and workers realize that working at all is better than not. The choice to work or not, should not be up to those who never get dirt under their fingernails. Unions only work for undereducated people, and then their efforts are just as much in dumming-down the rank and file as actually doing things in the best interest of their members. If you don't want to work for what the job pays, or under the conditions provided, go find another job. If the company can't get workers for what they are willing to pay, they have a choice to make more or go under. The free market system works, but only if the work force is intellegent enough to not be bullied. Sheep get led to slaughter.
  • by Stu Location: Grand Rapids on Sep 24, 2007 at 08:26 PM
    A lot of people envy Union workers over their wages. However, it is the courage to stand against corporate greed and require a fair wage that has produced that wage and benefits. (Which also benefits non-union workers, because their employers eventually have to increase their wages and benefits to get their workers to stay at their non-union plants, instead of leaving to go to Union Plants when they can.)
  • by Jen Location: Eaton Rapids on Sep 24, 2007 at 08:15 PM
    To all who think we are asking for too much from GM or think we should be replaced because others would love to have our jobs... Why do you think that they want our jobs? Our Union brothers and sisters have worked hard at making sure that we have good wages and benefits for our families. If you think we are crazy for going on strike "just because our local union told us to", ask us later on down the road if it was worth it. Lots of people made sacrifices for us to have security in our jobs and now it's our turn for the future employees at GM. None of us want to be with out pay until they resolve the issues. It's just something that has to be done if we want to continue to support our families until retirment and beyond.
  • by Jim Location: Spring Arbor on Sep 24, 2007 at 08:11 PM
    I think the UAW workers should all be thankful for the job and excellent benefits they have and go back to work. There are plenty of people in Jackson County that would love to have half of what these workers have.
  • by Doreen Location: Holt on Sep 24, 2007 at 08:10 PM
    If the union is interested in job security, why have a national strike and give GM another opportunity to leave the country. I'm sure other countries would like the opportunity to work even if at lower wages.
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