The G.M. Strike: What You Need to Know

First, it was teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Then hotel workers at nearly two dozen Marriotts and grocery employees at Stop & Shop locations in the Northeast.

Now, in the latest work stoppage, part of a recent surge of labor activism, the United Automobile Workers have gone on strike at General Motors. The strike is sending nearly 50,000 members at factories across the Midwest and South to picket lines on Monday morning.

U.A.W. regional leaders in Detroit voted unanimously on Sunday to authorize the strike, the union’s first such walkout since 2007. It began at midnight, after the union’s current bargaining agreement expired on Saturday.

The strike will immediately halt production in the United States, and a prolonged stoppage could affect G.M.’s Canadian and Mexican operations, crimping the company’s bottom line and the fortunes of its parts suppliers.

Here’s what you need to know about the U.A.W. strike.

G.M. has a smaller U.A.W. work force than its Detroit rivals, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler. But the union has taken aim at G.M. as the automaker has earned solid profits — it made $35 billion in North America over the last three years — while closing auto plants in the United States.

One of the union’s objectives is getting G.M. to reopen a shuttered car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, a goal that President Trump has endorsed. G.M. closed that plant, and others in Baltimore and in Warren, Mich., as part of a cost-cutting effort that eliminated 2,800 factory jobs and thousands of white-collar positions. A new contract could also decide the fate of a plant in Detroit that G.M. has kept open after designating it for closing.

The U.A.W. is also pushing the automaker to improve wages and close or narrow the difference between pay rates for new hires and veteran workers. The union is delaying talks with Ford and Fiat Chrysler while focusing on a single company, a standard practice in the talks between the U.A.W. and the Detroit automakers every four years.

G.M. wants employees to pay a greater portion of their health care costs, and to increase work-force productivity and flexibility in factories. In a statement, G.M. said it had offered to make more than $7 billion in new investments in plants in the United States, add 5,400 jobs and increase pay and benefits.

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways, and it is disappointing that the U.A.W. leadership has chosen to strike,” the company said on Sunday.

Yes — but significantly less. A long shutdown could prove painful for union members, who would have to get by on strike pay of $250 a week while out of work.

Any hit to G.M.’s North American profits would also reduce the annual profit-sharing checks union members receive each March. In each of the last three years, those checks have amounted to an average of $11,000.

As a recession threatened in 2007, U.A.W. members — it had 73,000 at G.M. at the time — walked out of General Motors plants for three days before a deal was reached. The company lost $23 million in 2007.

In many ways, that was a different world for the major carmakers, before the recession led to a global crisis in the auto industry. In 2009, G.M. filed for bankruptcy, though it has bounced back in recent years and now employs 49,000 full-time and temporary U.A.W. members.

Over the last decade, the U.A.W. has negotiated two contracts with G.M. without resorting to nationwide strikes, in 2011 and 2015.


Neal E. Boudette contributed reporting.

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