UAW Holds Votes to Allow Strike as Part of Negotiations

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -

The UAW has scheduled deadlines for strike authorization votes at its Fiat Chrysler and General Motors locals as part of its national contract talks.

The union formally began negotiations with FCA, GM and Ford in July in advance of the Sept. 14 expiration date of a four-year contract with all three automakers.

The votes are scheduled to take place at the UAW’s FCA locals across the country by next Monday and at GM locals either on or by Aug. 27. News about the strike authorization votes was first reported by Automotive News. It’s unclear whether a strike authorization deadline has been scheduled for Ford workers.

An official at two UAW locals who declined to be named because the topic is sensitive said several UAW units – including those in Belvidere, Ill.; Detroit, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; and Warren, Mich. – have already completed their votes with an overwhelming majority of members voting in favor of the authorization.

At least one GM local will hold its strike-authorization vote on Aug. 27.

The UAW represents about 141,000 workers at the three automakers, including 39,000 at FCA US and 50,300 at General Motors.

A strike-authorization vote is a normal part of the process for the UAW and does not necessarily signal the union’s intent to call a strike. A strike-authorization vote by the union’s members gives the union’s leaders the ability to call a strike if contract talks stall or hit an impasse.

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell sent a letter dated July 22 to all of the FCA locals with instructions on when to take the strike vote, which was just eight days after contract talks formally began. The timing of the instructions to the UAW’s Fiat Chrysler units suggests Jewell wanted to obtain strike authority upfront, rather than after hitting actual disagreements during negotiations.

In fact, UAW President Dennis Williams has said frequently that he views a strike as the union’s last option.

However, this is the first year since 2007 that the UAW has the right to strike. In 2009, when GM and Chrysler declared bankruptcy, the UAW agreed to forgo its right to strike during its 2011 contract talks.

“To me, a strike is failure,” Williams said last month. “I am not afraid of confrontation, but I don’t want one, and our members don’t want one.”