Employees at auto company General Motors are striking. Since September 15, employees at the company have refused to work, hoping that they can bargain for better working conditions. Nearly two weeks have gone by, but negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and General Motors have not ended the strike. Employees for General Motors (GM) are fighting for better wages and benefits, but so far, they have not been able to come to agreeable terms.
One of the workers’ complaints is that employees hired as temporary personnel do not get the same benefits as regular employees. Yet temporary staff work right alongside the rest, doing the same job and getting paid less. It is also a lengthy process to become a regular worker; some have even been working in a “temporary” capacity for as long as eight years.
Bill Duford is an assembly worker at the Romulus, Michigan, plant, and has been employed at GM for 37 years. He said, “They need to come up with something for the temp workers, something for the new hires to move up [to full pay] quicker than eight years.”
John Hoover is an electrician at the Detroit-Hamtramck facility. He claimed that a primary motivation behind the strike is that when GM was struggling and even considering bankruptcy, the employees came together, taking pay and benefit cuts to help the company through the tough times. “We have people that have been temps for eight years,” he said. “How long is it not temporary anymore — at what point? We gave up a lot for [GM]. We went 12 years without a raise. We gave back a dollar raise that we got to get them through the bankruptcy.”
When employees walk out on strike, they usually march in front of the facility at which they work while waiting for the union and employer to work out a satisfactory deal to meet their demands. However, both the business and employees can lose a lot during this time since there are fewer people to meet the company’s workload and employees do not make as much money while striking as they do when they are working.
Because this is a union strike, the union will pay employees $250 a week. However, payments will not be distributed until the workers have been picketing for 15 days. While to some, $250 may seem like a lot of money, the starting wage for temporary (not regular employees) workers is $15.78 per hour which is about $630 per week. The longer the strike continues, the more that workers and the company will experience losses.
For example, the strike is not only affecting GM facilities represented by the UAW, but also other plants, where the company has already laid off thousands of workers. At the DMax Ltd. plant in Moraine, Ohio, GM notified 525 employees that it would not be producing engines for the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks. The company has also laid off 700 employees at its St. Catharines Propulsion Plant in Ontario, and another 700 employees at the Oshawa Assembly Plant also in Ontario, Canada.
In fact, experts have tried to estimate just how much the strike is costing GM, and have come up with varying numbers. The Anderson Economic Group suggests losses of about $25 million just in the first week while Wall Street analysts estimate the cost at $50 million or more per day to the company.
This is not the first time workers have picketed the auto company. GM has a long history of union strikes to gain better benefits for its employees. Strikes date back to at least 1936 and have also proven to end favorably for the workers, but this is the longest one in nearly a decade.