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Auto Workers Strike GM, Arlington Plant

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-631578.mp3

Arlington, TX – Enrique Flores, president UAW Local 276
At 10 o'clock today Texas time we received instructions from the international union that negotiations had come to an impasse after months of negotiating. At that time we took UAW local 276 out on strike.

Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter: UAW Local 276 president Enrique Flores Jr. made that announcement at union headquarters, near the Arlington plant. He said there'd been no strike here since 1998, when a brief walkout affected Arlington only. But this walkout's national. Some 73 thousand workers have closed down GM plants across North America. In Arlington, that means a pair of 8-hour shifts and one maintenance shift at the million dollar a day operation, have stopped. So no more trucks or SUVs, like Yukons and Escalades are rolling of production lines. Charlotte Yeatherman, 27 years with General Motors, tells how it happened Monday morning.

Charlotte Yeatherman, Suggestions Administrator The shop committee tells us if we hear a whistle go off, then we leave. Immediately. That's exactly what happened. Whistle went, we all started leaving, right at 10.

Zeeble; Within minutes, retired UAW members were outside the Arlington plants' gates, with picket signs, announcing the strike.
Inside the union hall, organizers, including the UAW's Sargent at Arms, Richard Rowe, were compiling up-to-date member information.

Richard Rowe, sgt at arms. These people are filling out forms - name/address for strike duty. If you don't do the strike duty, you don't get the strike pay. We make sure everyone's information is correct, so they can be called by the strike captain, and told to report for duty.

Zeeble: Strike pay's 200 dollars a week, a fraction of normal salaries. But Flores says workers here back union leadership, because it's the right thing to do.

Flores A strike is a last resort. Neither side likes it . You see it used sparingly because it hurts both sides. The impasse caused strike.

Zeeble: The impasse revolves around retiree and health benefits. Officials reported progress after weeks of non-stop negotiations. But there wasn't enough to stall the walkout. GM expressed disappointment at the UAW's national strike, calling negotiations complex and difficult. Still, company spokesman Tom Wickham, in Michigan, was hopeful.

Tom Wickham, GM spokesperson: We are back at the table. We are talking and we're going to try to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

Zeeble: For Union worker Will Langston, that can't be soon enough.

William LANGSTON, UAW. Let's get it over with . Let's go on get what we got to do and go back to the table.

Zeeble: Neither management nor union officials are guessing how long negotiations will continue before an agreement's reached. Many union workers expected a deal that would stop a walkout. Now that they're wrong, they're hesitant to guess again. Bill Zeeble KERA news.
Bzeeble@Kera.Org