United Auto Workers Unions Open Talks with Automakers

Jul 18, 2019 09:46 AM EDT | Hannah Smith

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The United Auto Workers union entered tense labor talks with several automakers today. The union is opening talks with Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and GM at a delicate time when companies are cutting thousands of jobs and relocating plants overseas.

The "America first" policies of the Trump Administration have led to higher material costs which are pushing some automakers to cut back on expansion plans.

Autonomous and electric vehicles are also a concern for the union, which estimates that some 35,000+ jobs will be put at risk due to the lower labor requirements of the vehicles. The talks are expected to be the most contentious in over a decade.

Negotiations will impact 158,000 members and also help steer investment plans at the three major automakers. Experts suggest that the union's greatest power is the ability to strike, and many believe that the union is prepared to strike to reach their negotiation goals.

Mary Barra, CEO, and Chairman of General Motors met with union workers, claiming that "our collective future is at stake."

Union members claim that they plan to use the negotiations to fight back against GM's plan to close four US plants this year. GM is in the middle of a restructuring plan that includes closing some plants in an effort to help improve the company's future. 

Union members claim that they will use any power that they have at their disposal to keep jobs on US soil. The Lordstown Assembly plant, owned by GM, idled in March and laid off nearly 80 workers. The workers were picketing outside GM's headquarters as the negotiations are set to begin.

GM plans to cut $6 billion in costs annually by 2020, with roughly 14,000 US workers impacted by the decision. 

Buyers are keeping vehicles longer and purchasing used vehicles over new, more expensive automobiles. Consumer behavior is greatly impacting the market, with auto loan delinquencies rising. Lower accident rates also lead to fewer consumers purchasing automobiles.

UAW President Gary Jones claims that automakers are seeing record profits, but that those gains are not being seen by workers. Workers want automakers to invest more into their factories, including better pay and profit-sharing options for union members.

Temporary workers are also a rising concern for union members which claim that these workers are being paid less money and taking jobs. Ford claims that both sides have their own challenges and that both will have to go through "tough issues," but the company remains confident that an agreement will be met.

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