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UAW targets GM as first at bargaining table for new contract

General Motors

It's "go time" for negotiations on the next four-year contract between Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers union.

The current contract expires September 14th, and, as is usually the case, the union has picked one of the three automakers to set the pattern for the other two.

It's GM's turn this time around. Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader, says she is not surprised, given GM's controversial closure of four U.S. plants.

The union's primary concern is trying to maintain, if not increase, jobs in the U.S., and keep plants open.

Krebs says GM is likely going to focus on cutting costs, as it faces the headwinds of a trade war with China, slowing car sales, a costly transition to new technologies, and a possible recession in the next year or two.

Those concerns may lead GM to demand that autoworkers kick in more for their health insurance, something the UAW has resisted fiercely in the past.

"I think the possibility of a strike is higher this year than it's been in the past," says Krebs.  

She says there's another factor raising the stakes this year.

"The other complicating issue is this federal government probe into possible corruption in the UAW upper ranks," she says. "It's kind of a wild card how will the rank and file vote."
Eight former UAW officials with Fiat Chrysler have been sentenced in the probe into misuse of union funds.  
The probe widened after Michael Grimes, a UAW official in the GM division, was charged in mid-August with wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering for allegedly receiving kickbacks and demanding bribes from union vendors. Charges against others in the GM division are expected.
Then, last week, the FBI raided the Canton home of current UAW President Gary Jones, along with one of the homes owned by former UAW President Dennis Williams.  

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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