Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on increased tensions between GM and UAW

Autoworkers say they’re feeling unappreciated these days. They made wage and benefit sacrifices when times were bad. Now, after record sales, layoffs loom. The shocking announcement by General Motors last month to close four U.S. factories was seen, in part, as a message to the UAW to prepare for cost cuts during next year’s worker contract talks. But the labor union is not without leverage. It has more than $760 million in its strike fund. And officials aren’t afraid to use it. Everyone is watching to see what happens in coming months. These contracts are complicated and the process can be contentious. But it is highly unlikely the UAW would organize a strike to protest anything until the legal agreements allow for such activity, said UAW sources close to the leadership. But these are turbulent political times with all players trying to navigate a “contentious administration,” said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University. GM has angered autoworkers and politicians with its abrupt announcement about expected closures. And sometimes workers simply don’t care about protocol if they feel there’s nothing to lose, Masters said. “Look at the wildcat strikes that occurred among teachers in West Virginia and other states. Those worked,” he said. “There’s a growing militancy among some workers and people who have reached perhaps the tipping point. People take extreme action when they feel there’s no alternative.”

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