Some 46,000 General Motors auto workers strike in US

It is caused by a dispute between the UAW union and America's biggest automaker over wages and healthcare benefits

The United Auto Workers union began a nationwide strike against General Motors on Monday, with some 46,000 members walking off the job after contract talks hit an impasse. The move to strike, which the Wall Street Journal described as the first major stoppage at GM in more than a decade, came after the manufacturer's four-year contract with workers expired without an agreement on a replacement.

UAW officials said the two sides remained far apart in the contract negotiations, with disagreements on wages, health care benefits, the status of temporary workers and job security. As a result, local union leaders met in Detroit "and opted to strike at midnight on Sunday," the UAW said on its Twitter account.

"Our members have spoken; we have taken action; and this is a decision we did not make lightly," Ted Krumm, chair of the UAW's national bargaining committee, said in a statement.

"We are standing up for what is right," Krumm added.

"This is our last resort," Terry Dittes, the union's lead negotiator with GM, told a news conference meanwhile after the meeting. "We are standing up for the fundamental rights of working people in this country."

In a statement, GM said it was "disappointing" that the UAW's leadership had decided to call the strike, saying it had presented a "strong offer" in contract negotiations.

"We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business," it said.

In its response to the strike, GM's management revealed that the aforementioned offer included a promise of $7bn in investments that would save or protect 5,400 union jobs and address the issue of two "unallocated" for production plants in Michigan and Ohio. It also promised that a new all-electric truck would be built in a US plant. Protecting jobs and saving those plants have been key issues in the negotiations. Yet, the offer seemed not enough for the UAW, so the contract has not been extended. 

According to the WSJ GM's last major strike was held in 2007 when 73,000 workers at more than 89 facilities walked off the job for two days.

Adding to the friction is a federal corruption probe of the union leadership, which resulted in an FBI search last month of the home of UAW President Gary Jones. A member of the UAW's executive board, Vance Pearson, was arrested on Thursday on charges of conspiracy to use union dues for lavish personal expenses. Pearson, a UAW director in St. Louis, Missouri, was accused of using union conferences as a cover to justify long-term stays at luxury resorts in California.

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