GM strike seen as ‘a defining moment’

Union, automaker will keep talking as pickets go out for second day

By Plant Engineering Staff September 25, 2007

By Bob Vavra


Plant Engineering

The decision by the UAW to strike 30 General Motors plants Monday was not a foregone conclusion. It was not a matter of corporate greed and union stubbornness. Instead, the strike is seen by most experts as a chance for both sides to come to grips with a problem both helped create — the legacy costs facing American automobile manufacturers.

For GM, it needs the union to absorb those legacy costs and manage the massive pension fund that adds a huge price to every car made by the Big 3 automakers. For the union, it is a chance to gain from that concession the necessary job protection their members have been clamoring for.

In the New York Times , author James P. Womack said the strike is “a defining moment. G.M. has backed away from defining moments for generations. And now somebody there has finally said,‘We have to do this because it’s a new era.’ ”

CNN reported that the talks were due to resume Tuesday — a sign that both sides believe there is still common ground to keep talking. Indeed, the strike deadline passed for more than a week before the UAW sent the rank and file out to the picket lines.

An op-ed piece in Forbes suggests that a unlike 30 years ago, a GM strike is not seen as a national crisis. GM has a large stockpile of cars thanks to slow sales, and GM’s shaky position as the world’s number one automaker has already been supplanted by Toyota.

For the 73,00 workers who now must make do with strike wages, though, the strike is a very real problem. In small towns like Lordstown, OH , the impact of the GM strike is felt in the kitchen and in the pocketbook. For those workers, the strike put their families in a tight spot and their immediate futures in question.