UAW will walk at GM tonight

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DETROIT — The UAW on Sunday declared a national strike against General Motors for the first time since 2007 as contentious negotiations over wages and benefits reached a stalemate.

The union said its roughly 46,000 hourly GM members will walk off the line at 11:59 p.m. tonight. 

“This is our last resort,” Terry Dittes, vice president of the UAW-GM department, told reporters following a meeting of the unit’s national council. “It represents great sacrifice and great courage on the part of our members and all of us.”

A union spokesman said it was a unanimous vote to strike. He said “there may be discussions” between the two sides while they’re on strike, but It’s too early to say for sure. The union said workers currently at their jobs will continue there until picket lines are formed at midnight.

“I want to be clear: this strike is about us,” Ted Krumm, chairman of the union’s UAW-GM national negotiations team, told journalists. “It’s about standing up for fair wages, affordable quality health care, our share of profits, and job security. We are strong, we are ready. We don’t take this lightly.”

The union’s previous four-year labor agreement with GM expired Saturday at midnight, but workers were told to continue without a contract under the terms and conditions of the 2015 deal. Units negotiating with Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have extended their contracts while GM talks proceed.

Roughly 850 UAW-represented janitorial workers at five GM plants in Michigan and Ohio struck at midnight, leading to confusion and frustration as UAW-represented assembly line workers crossed the picket lines of their union colleagues. 

The talks have been further roiled by an ongoing federal corruption probe. UAW President Gary Jones has been implicated in the scandal, according to reports. The union’s International Executive Board called an emergency meeting Friday afternoon, but Jones did not resign and it was unclear whether he was asked to.

A union spokesman declined to say whether Vance Pearson, the UAW Region 5 director charged last week in a federal corruption probe, was still on the union’s International Executive Board. When pressed further, he said members in Region 5 were being represented by the leaders that were elected.

The spokesman said he would talk only about the workers and their fight for fair wages, affordable healthcare, share of GM profits, job security and a path to permanent employment for temporary workers.

“I will not deviate from that,” he said. “This union is standing up for our workers.”

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