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GM strike complicated by UAW union probe, political points – Axios

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The intrigue: UAW bosses are flexing their muscles to regain credibility with their members amid a deepening criminal investigation. And GM looks to drive a wedge between workers and union leaders while deflecting further attacks from President Trump over job cuts in swing states.

Driving the news: About 46,000 hourly workers walked off the job at GM at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the UAW’s first national strike since 2007.

  • The financial impact will be costly for both sides, especially if the strike drags on.
  • An assembly plant shutdown costs an automaker an estimated $1.3 million every hour, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
  • UAW members, whose top wage is about $30 an hour, will take home $250 per week in strike pay.
  • In 1998, a 54-day strike at 2 factories shut down nationwide production, costing GM more than $2 billion.

The issues: The union wants higher pay, better benefits and increased job security, arguing it made sacrifices during GM’s bankruptcy a decade ago, and now it deserves a share of the company’s record profits.

  • GM wants to cut costs ahead of an expected industry downturn, so it can continue to invest in electric vehicles and self-driving technology.

Between the lines: In an unprecedented move underlying the mistrust between the 2 sides (and likely to head off more criticism from Trump), GM publicly shared details of its offer to the union. Among them:

  • GM would invest $7 billion in U.S. factories, including 5,400 jobs.
  • Plans would include production of a new electric pickup truck at a Michigan factory and a new electric battery facility in Ohio.
  • GM offered workers a ratification bonus of $8,000 per member plus wage gains or lump-sum payments in all 4 years of the contract.
  • Health-care contributions would remain the same as in the current contract.

The other side: The UAW wants GM to restore annual cost-of-living raises and eliminate a 2-tier wage system it agreed to when the company was struggling more than a decade ago, sources said.

  • Since 2010, average wages in the U.S. motor vehicle manufacturing industry have fallen 2.1% — or 16.0% when adjusted for inflation.
  • The most senior UAW workers have had 3-percent wage increases twice in that period — in 2015 and 2017. During other years, they received lump sum payouts instead of annual raises.
  • Profit-sharing bonuses have increased. Since 2011, workers received an average $6,600 in profit-sharing, the equivalent of an extra $3.18 per hour.
  • GM’s record $12,000 profit-sharing per worker in 2017 equates to an additional $5.77 per hour.

The investigation: UAW leaders appear to be playing hardball, in part, to show rank-and-file members they are going to the mat for them amid charges that some union bosses were allegedly pocketing union training funds.

  • UAW President Gary Jones and his predecessor, Dennis Williams, have been implicated in a federal investigation, per the New York Times.
  • A criminal complaint alleges they helped current and former senior union officials embezzle member dues to buy personal luxuries, the Detroit News reports.
  • Neither Jones nor Williams have been charged with a crime.

What to watch: In a tweet, President Trump urged the 2 sides to resolve the dispute quickly, and several Democratic candidates expressed support for union members.

  • Talks were scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Monday.

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