Fort Wayne UAW workers prepare for potential GM strike

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE / AP) – Thousands of United Auto Workers members have started preparations for a potential strike at General Motors Fort Wayne Assembly.

The national agreements between UAW and GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. The union has targeted General Motors as the first company to see potential strikes.

UAW 2209 President Holli Murphy is set to travel to Detroit this weekend for a meeting with other union leaders from across the country. The local leaders will likely make an announcement Sunday about the union’s plans to strike at plants or strike a deal.

Murphy told WANE 15 the local union has prepared for the first seven days of a potential strike, with signs being made and workers being educated about the negotiations. She said they have “all hands on deck,” around the clock.

The local union has found support in retirees and others in the community. More than 4,000 people could be affected by a strike at Fort Wayne Assembly.

“We have trust in our leadership,” Murphy said about negotiations.

Here’s where General Motors and the union differ:

— GM is making big money, $8 billion last year alone, and workers want a bigger slice. The union wants annual pay raises to guard against a possible economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers don’t want higher fixed costs in a possible downturn.

— The union also wants new products for four factories GM is trying to close, two in the Detroit area, one in Lordstown, Ohio, near Cleveland, and another outside Baltimore. The factory plans have irked some union members, even though most laid-off workers will get jobs at other GM factories. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity.

— All three companies want to close the labor cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM’s gap is the largest at $13 per hour, followed by Ford at $11 and Fiat Chrysler at $5, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories.

— Union members have great health insurance plans but workers pay about 4% of the cost. Employees of large firms nationwide pay about 34%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The companies would like to cut costs.

If a strike happens, it will be the first since 2007

WANE 15 News will continue to monitor efforts to make a deal and preparations of a potential strike.

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