Signs of progress in the UAW strike against GM

On Day 19 of the United Auto Workers union strike at General Motors, signs are emerging that the two sides are making progress on a deal to end the industry’s longest work stoppage in decades.

People familiar with the talks say the union and company have been passing comprehensive proposals back and forth this week, narrowing the gaps between their positions. Nearly 50,000 workers have been on strike since September 16.

The major sticking points in the talks: GM’s use of temporary workers, bringing jobs back from Mexico, and the union’s demand that GM revive some or all of the four US plants slated for closure. The company has already stopped production at an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and Baltimore. Its Hamtramck assembly plant in Detroit is due to shut down early next year.

Disagreements about basic pay levels and profit sharing formulas are also key points in the talks.

This is not the first time in the strike that the two sides seemed to be moving closer to a resolution. A deal has so far proved elusive, as it could again.

On Tuesday, Terry Dittes, head of the union’s bargaining team for General Motors, sent a letter to strikers saying the company had presented a “comprehensive proposal” late Monday that he said came up short in many areas, including health care, wages, temporary employees and job security. He said the union countered with its own proposal.

Negotiators met several times on Thursday and seemed to be making progress, according to one person familiar with the talks. Another said the talks have been going fairly late into the night, and resuming early the next morning.

“This is what you want to see in bargaining — proposals going back and forth,” that person said.

The union has been discussing ways to put more pressure on the company, including the possibility of asking members for a “no confidence” vote in GM chief executive Mary Barra, a source with knowledge of the plan confirms. Meanwhile, GM stock is down 12% since the start of the strike.

One major shareholder, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, has urged the company to reach a deal. DiNapoli oversees the state’s pension funds, which own 3.8 million shares of GM, or less than 0.3% of all outstanding GM stock.

Many other Democratic politicians, including some top 2020 presidential candidates, have made public shows of support for the union.