- GM CEO Mary Barra met with UAW President Gary Jones and Vice-President Terry Dittes with a strike against the carmaker reaching into its fourth week.
- The meeting evidently encouraged negotiators to overcome an impasse and continue working through remaining contract issues.
- GM’s 50,000 UAW-represented workers have been on strike since Sept. 16; it’s the largest labor action against a major automaker since 1982.
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GM CEO Mary Barra on Wednesday held a meeting with United Auto Workers President Gary Jones and Vice-President Terry Dittes.
The UAW strike against GM, with nearly 50,000 workers walking off the job, is now in its fourth week.
The meeting between Barra, several GM negotiators, and the UAW leadership, was held at GM’s headquarters in downtown Detroit and took place on Tuesday afternoon at Barra’s behest, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Business Insider. The news was originally reported by the New York Post and the Detroit Free Press.
The UAW also confirmed the meeting to Reuters. The meeting has been labeled “secret,” but the UAW disputed that characterization.
After appearing to have resolved a series of remaining issues around profit-sharing and temporary workers, talks reached an impasse the past weekend when, Dittes wrote in an email to GM negotiator Scott Sandefur, the company failed to respond in an acceptable manner to a UAW proposal.
Talks continued into the night and early morning
With no official counter from the UAW on Monday and Tuesday, even as negotiations continued, Barra decided to offer the meeting, which ran for about an hour. The New York Post said that armed guards escorted Jones and Dittes to Barra’s office in the Renaissance Center, but that wasn’t the case. The meeting took place in the main negotiating area in the building, and there were no armed guards, a source familiar with the situation said.
A source indicated that talks then continued well into the night and early Thursday morning, suggesting that two sides are working to address the remaining sticking points.
The strike began on September 16 and is the largest labor action against a major automaker since 1982. In 2007, the UAW struck GM for just two days.
Jones’s presence at the media was notable. The UAW president has maintained a relatively low profile during negotiations. He, along with other UAW officials, is under investigation by federal authorities on allegations of corruption.
The meeting was consistent with Barra’s approach to running GM. She’s wasted no time in making the difficult decisions that could keep the 111-year-old automaker in business. GM sold its money-losing European division, Opel, in 2017, and more recently streamlined its South Korea operations. In 2016, it bought San Francisco-based Cruise Automation for an all-in price of $1 billion; subsequent investment has raised the self-driving startup’s valuation to nearly $20 billion (GM’s market cap is $50 billion).
GM’s original offer didn’t satisfy the UAW
GM originally offered to invest $7 billion and add 5,400 jobs in the US, including “solutions” for idled plants in Ohio and Michigan. The company announced last year that it would “unallocate” a group of US factories, but in its initial offer to the union it said that it could bring an electric-battery plant to area in Ohio where the Lordstown facility is located, and that it could use the Hamtramck plant in Michigan to assemble a new electric truck.
The UAW membership walked out over benefits, profit-sharing, and the fate of temporary workers, despite a GM offer to keep UAW contributions to health care at around 3%. But earlier this week, Dittes sent a letter to the membership that stressed job security as an ongoing concern.
“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 USA,” he wrote, referring to GM vehicles manufactured in Mexico.”We believe that the vehicles GM sells here should be built here.”