(BEDFORD) – United Auto Workers Local 440 President Kevin Hutchinson and fellow union members went on strike at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
At 4:55 p.m. Sunday contract talks between the United Auto Workers union and General Motors stopped for the night. UAW says contract talks with General Motors will resume at 10 a.m. Monday morning.
Union spokesman Brian Rothenberg says GM’s 49,200 UAW went on strike at 11:59 p.m. This strike will be the union’s first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.
A strike by 49,200 union workers would bring to a halt GM’s U.S. production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well.
Union officials say both sides are far apart in the talks, while GM says it has made significant offers union members have rejected.
“The UAW is committed to collective bargaining and the best interest of its membership,” Hutchinson added. He and Chairman Chad Millspaugh were in Detroit on Saturday during negotiations.
On Sunday morning, the United Auto Workers Union announced contract negotiations with the automaker had broken down. About 200 plant-level union leaders voted unanimously in favor of a walkout and a strike would happen.
“We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members,” Union Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement.
In a statement, GM said it offered improved wages, benefits, and additional U.S. jobs.
“It is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight. We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business,” the company said.
Union leaders say the two sides are far apart on economic issues.
On Friday, union leaders extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely.
Here are the main areas of disagreement according to officials in Detroit:
- 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 GM wants to close. The factory plans have irked some workers, although most of those who were laid off will get jobs at other GM factories. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity.
- The 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. 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.