DETROIT -- The UAW said it plans to strike General Motors tonight following the expiration of the union's contract with the automaker overnight.
“UAW helped rebuild General Motors when they were near extinction, now they’ve reached record level profits," the UAW said in an emailed statement this morning. "If GM refuses to give even an inch to help hard-working UAW members and their families then we’ll see them on the picket lines tonight."
Union officials were expected to announce further details of their plans at a meeting this morning in Detroit.
UAW-GM Vice President Terry Dittes told members late Saturday that “no decisions or actions will be taken” against the automaker until after the union’s International Executive Board meets at midnight and its GM national council meets at 10 a.m. EDT Sunday.
Dittes, in a letter to members, said “some progress” has been made in negotiations, but that the two sides still have “significant differences” on issues such as wages, health care benefits, temporary employee usage, job security and profit sharing. No deal was reached overnight after the midnight contract expiration.
In a separate letter to Vice President of GM North America Labor Relations Scott Sandefur, Dittes said that if the two sides can’t come to an agreement, union members have been instructed to remain at work under the same terms and conditions of the current contract. Further complicating the situation was the UAW's decision to put 850 custodial workers on strike overnight at five GM plants in Michigan and Ohio.
UAW-represented workers crossed picket lines early Sunday morning as UAW-represented Aramark workers struck outside. Members have voiced their displeasure over the decision, according to media reports and online communication from local leaders.
At GM's Flint, Michigan, assembly plant, which just launched a new heavy-duty pickup, UAW Local 598 leaders told members employed directly by GM they should report to work, crossing picket lines set up by fellow Local 598 members who work for Aramark. But union members could choose not to cross those lines, Reuters reported.
The Flint heavy-duty pickup is vital to GM's profits. The UAW could call local strikes that target plants critical to production of large pickups and SUVs as an alternative to a company-wide strike that would more quickly drain union strike funds.
The UAW's bargaining units for Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have extended their collective bargaining agreement deadlines that were set to expire on Saturday night.
“We continue to work hard on solutions to some very difficult challenges," GM said in a statement late Saturday. "We are prepared to negotiate around the clock because there are thousands of GM families and their communities – and many thousands more at our dealerships and suppliers – counting on us for their livelihood. Our goal remains on building a strong future for our employees and our business.”
This year's talks were expected to be contentious -- particularly with GM -- as the union's leadership comes under fire for corruption. UAW President Gary Jones and his predecessor, Dennis Williams, were both implicated as unnamed union officials in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against UAW board member Vance Pearson on Thursday. Neither Jones nor Williams has been charged with any wrongdoing.
Jones remained the union’s president following a three-hour emergency meeting of the union’s International Executive Board Friday afternoon at a metro Detroit hotel conference room. Jones, along with the union’s three vice presidents and other IEB members, were spotted at the meeting, but all approached by Automotive News declined comment as they left.
GM may ask for an extension to its contract in the wake of the new allegations, Reuters reported.
The automaker issued an emailed statement on Thursday saying it was “outraged and deeply concerned” about the new charges.
“These serious allegations represent a stunning abuse of power and trust,” GM said in a statement. “There is no excuse for union officials to enrich themselves at the expense of the union membership they represent.”
Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the industry and labor economics group at the Center for Automotive Research, said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if Jones resigns. The activities the government alleges in its charging document “would create cause for concern among the other members of the executive board.”
“There’s a whole lot of other people at the UAW working on negotiations with General Motors,” Dziczek said. “Gary Jones is one person; he’s the most powerful person. But we don’t know what the union may do in light of this new information.”
Pearson, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Missouri on Tuesday, but isn't expected to be formally arraigned on charges until he is transferred to federal court in Detroit at a later date. He lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The UAW's Ford and FCA departments notified union members of the extension via Friday letters. Rory Gamble, vice president of the UAW's national Ford department, said the extension is not unusual and "commonly occurs when another company has been identified as the lead, as is the case with General Motors."
Cindy Estrada, vice president of the UAW's FCA department, said the union signed an indefinite contract extension that can be terminated by either party in three days of written notice. Estrada said in the letter that "we will continue to meet with FCA with the intentions of reaching a tentative agreement that meets the needs of our members."
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.