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UAW Strike Against General Motors Enters Its 4th Week

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Almost 50,000 General Motors workers begin this week still on strike. It is the auto industry's longest strike in decades. And the union, the UAW, says talks with management over the weekend left the union further from a resolution. Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer is covering this story from Grand Rapids, Mich. Hey there, Dustin.

DUSTIN DWYER, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What went wrong over the weekend?

DWYER: Well, the information we're getting, as you said, comes from the UAW. Specifically, it comes from UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, who's been offering up some occasional updates to UAW members. And on Friday, Terry Dittes sent out a letter saying they had made good progress in the talks, and that was a great sign. You know, the strike has dragged on for three weeks, going on the fourth week now. And this was one of the first signs that there had been progress.

But by Sunday, that had completely changed, and Terry Dittes said this time that, in fact, they had taken a step back, and the union could not be more disappointed in GM, and what he explained happened was that there was an offer on the table. UAW responded, made its counter offer, taking into account a bunch of things. And what Terry Dittes said is, on Sunday morning, when GM responded to that latest offer, GM basically didn't respond at all. It just reiterated its previous offer and didn't address anything that the UAW had brought up.

So they seem to be at a stalemate. It seems like things are not going well right now.

INSKEEP: OK. So we have the union's version, maybe a little bit less from GM's side. But in any case, no doubt that they don't have a deal and people are still on strike. So what have you seen and heard when you go out and talk to workers?

DWYER: Well, workers are now being forced to live off of $250 a week in strike pay. That is not enough to cover many of their bills. For many of them, they're in a tight spot financially. But most people I've talked to are still very committed to the strike, say that this is something that needed to happen. They say they want protections for temporary workers, and they're willing to hold out, at least for now. And so that's what I'm hearing on the line.

INSKEEP: I want to make sure that I understand this argument about temporary workers. This is essentially temps who are being hired in a way that they're actually permanent workers, but they're just not paid the same and not protected the same way as a full-time UAW member and full-time GM employee?

DWYER: Yeah. The pay is less. The pay is less than $16 an hour, which is not a whole lot more than, say, an Amazon warehouse worker would make. And temporary workers can be basically fired at any time. They don't have long-term protections. And so what the rank-and-file members that have more permanent status, have higher wage, say is that this is just no way for a person to live, no way for a worker to live.

Fine, if you want to have a temporary status for 90 days or so. But what we're hearing is that some workers remain temps for two years or more. And that's really what the rank-and-file members are fighting against.

INSKEEP: And GM has said, listen, we just need the flexibility?

DWYER: Yeah. The auto industry's changing. Everyone knows that things are changing and that they just want to be flexible so that they can change, as well.

INSKEEP: Dustin, thanks very much for the update. Really appreciate it.

DWYER: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio who is in Grand Rapids, Mich., today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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