UAW Union Threatens Strike Against GM

The Associated Press
Monday, September 24, 2007; 2:42 AM

DETROIT -- After 20 straight days of negotiations, the United Auto Workers union said it would strike General Motors Corp. Monday morning if a new contract agreement isn't reached, citing the automaker's failure to address job security and other concerns.

"We're shocked and disappointed that General Motors has failed to recognize and appreciate what our membership has contributed during the past four years," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement early Monday.

Gettelfinger didn't offer specifics, but the UAW had been expected to ask GM for guarantees of future production at U.S. plants as part of the negotiations.

The union set the strike deadline for 11 a.m. EDT Monday. Cal Rapson, the UAW's chief GM negotiator, said the union will remain at the bargaining table until the deadline. He said GM has failed to meet the needs and concerns of the UAW's members.

"Instead, in 2007 company executives continued to award themselves bonuses while demanding that our members accept a reduced standard of living," Rapson said in a statement. "The company's disregard for our members has forced our bargaining committee to take this course of action."

GM spokesman Dan Flores said the automaker is working with the union to resolve issues.

"The contract talks involve complex, difficult issues that affect the job security of our U.S. work force and the long term viability of the company," Flores said. "We are fully committed to working with the UAW to develop solutions together to address the competitive challenges facing General Motors. We will continue focusing our efforts on reaching an agreement as soon as possible."

The union may be trying to pressure GM to get a deal. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said as recently as Friday that the union was trying to speed up negotiations and didn't want to strike.

"It is our desire to reach an agreement without a strike, and we have demonstrated this by staying at the bargaining table up to this point," Gettelfinger said in a memo to local union leaders that was posted on a union Web site in Oklahoma.

Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in labor issues and has closely followed the talks, said the strike threat is a tool to speed the talks.

"I have a feeling it is meant to resolve the issues as quickly as possible," Shaiken said.

Still, he said the threat should be taken seriously. Shaiken said the union wouldn't set a deadline if it thought there was no possibility of a strike.

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