GM labor union talks could be ‘in the home stretch’ as CEO Mary Barra joins negotiations

CNBC: UAW members picket GM Detroit Hamtramck
United Auto Workers members on strike picket outside General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly
plant on Sept. 25, 2019 in Detroit. Michael Wayland / CNBC

DETROIT – Shares of General Motors bounced higher Tuesday as GM CEO and Chairwoman Mary Barra joined negotiations with the United Auto Workers as the two sides try to bring to a close the union’s 30-day strike.

GM President Mark Reuss also sat in on the talks with Barra Tuesday morning, according to a person briefed on the meeting in Detroit. He asked not to be named because the negotiations aren’t public. One person said a deal is not locked in yet, but the talks could be “in the home stretch.”

Shares were up more than 2% after opening at $35.47.  GM’s stock is down by about 7% since Sept.13, the last trading day before the strike.

This is the second time Barra has met with the union in the past week, however the previous meeting on Oct. 9 was separate from the main negotiating table.

The meeting comes a day after the UAW has summoned local union leaders to Detroit on Thursday for an update on its negotiations with GM.

The UAW summoned local union leaders to Detroit on Thursday for an update on negotiations with GM.

The union has traditionally done this when a tentative agreement has been reached or, as was the case a month ago, to discuss and vote on other actions such as a strike.

A letter to local union leaders Monday night said the agenda for the meeting included a “contract update and any other agenda items to be determined,” leaving the door open for talks to continue to potentially reach a tentative agreement ahead of the meeting.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg declined to comment on the letter. GM spokesman David Barnas confirmed talks are “ongoing,” but declined to comment on details of the discussions. Negotiations between the two sides ended Monday evening and are expected to resume Tuesday morning.

If a tentative agreement is not reached by the meeting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, the union could update local leaders about the discussions in an attempt to determine what to do next.

“My guess is if there is no tentative agreement by Thursday, they will review the status of bargaining with the council and then try to obtain a consensus with respect to next steps,” said Colin Lightbody, a labor consultant and longtime negotiator for Fiat Chrysler.

Options for the union moving forward could include:

  • remaining on strike and continuing negotiations with GM;
  • discussing and voting on terms for remaining outstanding issues;
  • moving discussions to another automaker if negotiations have stalled, among others.

The summons of local UAW presidents and chairpersons comes following the two sides countering back and forth with proposals. The union on Friday said it had countered an offer from GM.

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