MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - General Motors workers in Memphis are joining nearly 50,000 others across the country in the largest strike in 12 years.
At the Memphis GM Customer Care and After Sales Center, 142 workers are striking. There's 46,000 United Auto Workers Union members joining them after their contracts expired at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Union leaders in Memphis said they're looking for several things, including better healthcare and secure jobs for temporary employees.
National UAW leaders said GM is putting profit over employees. The employees said they're the ones who got the company through bankruptcy and the bailout.
Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.
GM said it made a substantial offer that included better pay and solutions to GM factories slated for closing.
However, that offer has not been accepted by union representatives, so workers plan to strike across the country until contract negotiations are resolved.
"We are standing on the line for everyone," local UAW President Glinder Louis said. "What we gain, everyone else gains because it boosts the economy. If we can get what we want or even close to what we want, it boosts the economy."
Union representatives said talks with GM are still open, and a meeting is planned for Monday morning.
According to CNN, it’s the largest strike by any union against the business since the last GM workers strike in 2007.
This year's talks between the union and GM were tense from the start, largely because of GM's plan to close four U.S. factories, including the one on the Detroit border with the enclave of Hamtramck, as well as Lordstown and factories in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.
Here are the main areas of disagreement:
- 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 an economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers don’t want higher fixed costs.
- The union also wants new products for the four factories slated to close. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity, especially to build slower-selling cars.
- The companies want to close the labor cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories. GM’s gap is the largest at $13 per hour, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research.
- Union members have great health insurance plans and workers pay about 4% of the cost. Employees at large firms nationwide pay about 34%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Automakers would like to cut costs.