Why Did They Strike?

By: Beth Shayne Email
By: Beth Shayne Email

It's been three decades since UAW workers across the country walked a picket line like the one they walked Monday. The last nationwide strike was against Ford Motor Company in 1976.

In 1998, two plants in Flint walked off the job, in a strike against GM.

A walkoff in 2007 is seen as a drastic move by the experts, and quite frankly surprising, too.

"I think a lot of analysts expected there wouldn't be," MSU Labor professor John Revitte says. He says this strike is about changing times in the auto world, times when workers may not get "Cadillac" benefits and pensions.

In a news conference explaining the strike this morning, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger took pains to say healthcare--and so-called VEBA trust fund accounts that would pay for it--are not the sticking point. He cited job security and other "economic issues." He says GM was not willing to compromise and accused them of approaching the strike deadline, 11 a.m. Monday, as if they didn't care.

GM released a statement saying, "We are 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. We are fully committed to working with the UAW to develop solutions together to address the competitive challenges facing General Motors. We will continue focusing our efforts on reaching an agreement as soon as possible."

GM wants those VEBA accounts to help them with a $51 billion dollar liabilility for healthcare for retirees.

Gettelfinger says the union has given already--pointing to concession made in the last four years. In 2005, it was a vote to allow co-pays for retiree healthcare. In 2006, thousands left the company as part of a buyout.

That smaller union is now fighting for jobs, and thereby size and power. A smaller GM is fighting for the flexibility to do business in ways that may hurt the union, but keep the company alive.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Sandra Location: Lansing on Sep 25, 2007 at 08:25 PM
    To the anonymous comment, I do not make six figured to put a few parts on a car. I again say, until you have worked or walked a mile in my shoes, please DO NOT spout about things you do not know about. The jobs that the average assembly line worker does would probably put the average JOE out of commision in a week or two. I have worked for General Motors for over 12 years and have NEVER made six figures. Cindy has a good point, if upper management would give a little, there would be a lot more money to help out our Union Brothers and Sisters.
  • by bonnie Location: lansing on Sep 25, 2007 at 01:21 PM
    i think g.m is more interested in making money for themselves they wrote america off when they took their first contract over seas,our union is trying to keep our jobs here for US.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 25, 2007 at 12:25 PM
    when you pay a person a six figure income to put a few parts on a car.... there is a problem
  • by Cindy Location: Lansing on Sep 25, 2007 at 08:29 AM
    If the management people at GM would give up their bonuses and limit their pay that would go a long way to help GM more profitable. Quit blaming the worker on the line for all their problems as to why they can't make a profit. You can't say to the worker give back, give back, give back so that we can pay the president and other management people millions in bonuses. That is not fair and it should be stopped.
  • by Dee Location: MI on Sep 25, 2007 at 08:18 AM
    THERE is no such thing as JOB SECURITY..anybody knows that.. If you cant do the job, there is always someone else to replace you. No company can GUARANTEE any JOB Security ..Nobody can offer Lifetime employment.
  • by Debbie Location: Potterville on Sep 25, 2007 at 07:07 AM
    After standing the line for 30 years, they all deserve the "Cadillac" benefits that were promised to them.
  • by Samatha Location: Jackson on Sep 25, 2007 at 06:59 AM
    Ford and Chrysler should hope that the strike last a long time. It gives them more leverage. Unions need to remember they are there for their members not for themselves.
  • by Mark Location: Jackson on Sep 25, 2007 at 05:35 AM
    Who is the dummy who called a national strike. A precision strike at some of the assembly factories would be more effective with 1/2 of GM scrambling to keep the other factories working and the other 1/2 at the bargaining tables. The unions used their biggest weapon and now they have nothing else to leverage.
  • by Sandra Location: Lansing on Sep 24, 2007 at 09:35 PM
    As a third genration GM employee, I have been around the union and been supported by the union all my life. If we keep giving a little and they keep taking a little more, we will be out of jobs sooner than later. As for making $70 per hour, I just wish people would get their facts straight before they go spouting about things they do not know about. The press has always told us we make more than we do, and that makes the public beleive they know what they are talking about. The so called $70. per hour includes all out benifits, and insurance that the company has pay to cover us while we are at work. Our paychecks do not reflect that. So until you have walked a mile in my shoes, please do not assume you know all about GM and the UAW.
  • by Jen Location: Eaton Rapids on Sep 24, 2007 at 08:55 PM
    I was just reading June from Ingham County's comment. Since when do GM workers make $70 per hour? I don't know who told you that but you aren't even close!! Besides, you guys need our income to keep the economy going in Michigan. If we take a pay cut it would hurt everyone not just the auto industry. See you from the picket line!!
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