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Over 49,000 autoworkers strike in US

China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-17 09:22
Union members picket outside a General Motors facility in Langhorne, Pa., Sept 16, 2019. [Photo/IC]
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DETROIT, Michigan-More than 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers union walked off General Motors factory floors or set up picket lines early on Monday as contract talks with the company deteriorated into a strike.

Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the United States, as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.

The move to strike, which The Wall Street Journal described as the first major stoppage at GM in more than a decade, came after the manufacturer's four-year contract with workers expired without an agreement on a replacement.

Local union leaders met in Detroit "and opted to strike at midnight on Sunday", the UAW said on its Twitter account.

"This is our last resort," Terry Dittes, the union's lead negotiator with GM, told a news conference after the meeting. "We are standing up for the fundamental rights of working people in this country."

UAW officials said the two sides remained far apart in the contract negotiations, with disagreements on wages, healthcare benefits, the status of temporary workers and job security.

"Our members have spoken. We have taken action; and this is a decision we did not make lightly," Ted Krumm, chair of the UAW's national bargaining committee, said in a statement.

"We are standing up for what is right," Krumm said.

Hours before the strike began, US President Donald Trump tweeted: "Here we go again with General Motors and the United Auto Workers. Get together and make a deal!"

GM's last major strike, according to the Journal, was in 2007 when 73,000 workers at more than 89 facilities walked off the job for two days.

In a statement, GM said it was "disappointing" that the UAW's leadership had decided to call the strike, saying it had presented a "strong offer" in contract negotiations.

The UAW's leadership had previously won overwhelming approval from its rank-and-file for a strike if it became necessary.

GM has enjoyed several years of strong sales, posting $11.8 billion in operating profits last year, prompting union officials to argue it is time to share the wealth with workers who have borne the brunt of downturns.

But the outlook for GM is less clear, with concerns growing that a recession may be in the offing amid protracted trade tensions.

GM announced last November it was effectively shuttering five plants in North America, including facilities in Michigan and Ohio that were "unallocated" for production.

Protecting jobs and saving those plants have been key issues in the negotiations.

In its response to the strike, GM's management revealed that its offer included a promise of $7 billion in investments that would save or protect 5,400 union jobs and address the issue of the two "unallocated "plants.

Agencies

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