The United Auto Workers union met Monday in Detroit at this year’s Special Convention to hammer out a litany of details ahead of its contract negotiations later this year with General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Elected UAW delegates will determine the union’s bargaining resolutions while also selecting bargaining committees for the three automakers, according to The Detroit News.
The Special Convention comes at a complicated time for the auto industry. General Motors wants to “unallocate” five North American factories—four in the U.S.—while FCA prepares to expand its operations. Automakers are facing a shifting and slowing industry as electric vehicles and autonomous technologies become the norm. However, the fact FCA believes the U.S. is still a place for profitable manufacturing could help the UAW as it negotiates with GM.
The UAW had taken umbrage with GM’s decisions, accusing the automaker of deliberating avoiding specific language when it announced its plan to “unallocate” factories. The union filed a lawsuit against the automaker charging the company as such in hopes of keeping three of the factories—Warren Transmission, Baltimore Operations, and Lordstown Assembly—open through September when the current contract between the two entities expires.
According to the UAW, GM violated the 2015 UAW-GM national agreement—the Plant Closing and Sale Moratorium portion—by avoiding “idle” and “close” in its restructuring announcement. Instead, according to the UAW, GM used “unallocate” as a workaround. GM has said it did nothing wrong.
Since GM announced its restructuring plan last November, the UAW has been vocal about its displeasure with the automaker. The union called for a boycott of Mexico-made vehicles, joining the Canadian workers union Unifor for that cause. Last month, the two unions announced they’d work closely together as they battled GM.
On top of all that, there’s also uncertainty about the NAFTA replacement USMCA. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with the union last week in hopes of drumming up support for the replacement agreement, but the UAW was not enthused about the details, which is something that could derail its passage in the U.S. Congress. Leaders from the three member countries have already signed the USMCA, punting its passage to their respective legislatures. However, any changes could require reopening negotiations, causing further issues.