UAW's Strike Against GM Brings To Mind Last Century's Labor Battles


This message comes from NPR sponsor xfinity. Some things are slow like a snail races. Other things are fast like Xfinity X. by get get fast speeds even when everyone is online working to make WIFI simple easy awesome more at xfinity dot com restrictions apply there was a time when a strike at GM sent shockwaves throughout the US economy but talks aimed at ending an ongoing strike are expected to continue into the weekend and it's clear neither the company nor the United Auto Workers Union are as powerful as they once were. Here's NPR's Scott horsely. Americans woke up this week to something. We don't see that often anymore anymore. Workers at a Major Industrial Company walking picket line a strike against General Motors is already taking a toll on the country's largest automaker nearly fifty thousand the united auto workers striking against General Motors this a number of workers already on the picket line here the GM's vehicles are bigger than ever strikes have gotten smaller the company's unionized workforce has shrunk by about ninety percent from its peak in the nineteen seventies Micheline Maynard who covered autos and manufacturing actioning for NPR and the New York Times says the UAW's actually been supplementing its picket lines with workers from other companies. It is being portrayed as let's help our brothers and sisters sisters at General Motors but it wasn't necessary ten or fifteen years ago and it was a very different story during General Motors Heyday Chevrolet quality mass production demands people thousands of people for most of the company's history. Those people were unionized labor expert. Harley shaken of UC Berkley says General Motors and the UAW practically grew up together in nineteen fifty they signed the Treaty of Detroit a five year deal that gave workers annual pay raises and agenda pension it was the UAW and General Motors at the bargaining table that brought millions of Americans into the middle class and that fueled a growing economy and a broader prosperity be you in your role America in the Nineteen Fifties General Motors was riding high and so were Ford and Chrysler the Big Three controlled ninety percent of the auto the market Japan and Germany were still recovering from the war America had it all seemed and Union President Walter Reuther insisted workers get their share. We believe this is the most effective way to expand purchasing power and purchasing power is the key to the economic future of the American economy that strong bargaining power our continued through nineteen seventy when GM workers staged another headline grabbing strike good evening General Motors the united auto workers have announced tentative agreement on a new new three year contract that contract included pay raises totaling nearly twenty percent but the good times we're about to give way to a decade of Malays Inflation Asian soared in the nineteen seventies and so did the price of gasoline. US auto makers struggled to keep up with changing tastes General Motors Nineteen seventy-five Chevrolet Enderle Nova. There may never be a better time to move to a GM compaq demand for combat cars created an opening that foreign carmakers were quick to exploit the the beginning of the concessions era maynard who wrote the book the end of Detroit says foreign carmakers Toyota Honda Volkswagen began opening their own factories here in the US those companies would come in and build factories and employ Americans and then those Americans would join the uaw they didn't GM in the a union did get a reprieve in the nineties when gas prices fell and sales of pickup trucks SUV's took off but the prophets from those big vehicles masked a lot of rotten management and managers often struggled with a complacent and unyielding unit when the recession hit just over a decade ago the once-mighty General Motors was forced into bankruptcy only rescue from the federal government saved GM and Chrysler from going under the collapse of these companies would have been devastating for countless Americans and done enormous damage to our common in return for its help the Obama administration demanded big concessions from both the companies and the Union including a new a two tiered wage scale that allowed GM pay new workers less shaken says it was a bitter pill that was an incredibly grim moment went for the U. A. W. But their central priority was to ensure that the Detroit automaker survived that wasn't a given general. Oh Motors did survive and after years of sacrifice. The Union now wants a bigger piece of its profits which topped eight billion dollars last year. GM is a much diminished finished company though its market share has tumbled from a high of fifty percent to less than sixteen percent union power suffered a similar decline. GM has also invested heavily in Mexico where workers make a fraction of what they do here that raises a question that Walter Reuther might have asked with fewer and fewer well-paid American workers. There's who will buy all those cars the company's making Scott Horsely N._p._R. News Washington.

Coming up next