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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: The sooner GM strike ends, the better

On the one hand, you have a collective bargaining agreement between Fort Wayne Community Schools and the Fort Wayne Education Association discussed at a school board meeting Monday that is set to be approved next month.

On the other hand, you have a General Motors strike entering its second week with no end yet in sight.

The UAW’s previous labor contract with GM, negotiated in 2015, expired at midnight on Sept. 14, along with labor contracts with Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler. While new deals also need to be hashed out with the other two of Detroit’s Big 3 automakers, UAW members voted earlier this month to take on collective bargaining with GM first.

Workers, including those in Fort Wayne, walked off their jobs at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 15, hours after union leadership announced that negotiations over a new labor contract with GM had stalled and collective bargaining would not be extended. The strike halted production at about 30 manufacturing sites in nine states.

Obviously, there are many differences between the local teachers union and its relationship to FWCS and the UAW and its collective bargaining demands with GM.

FWCS and the FWEA union recently completed negotiations following informal bargaining this summer. The agreement presented Monday affirmed a two-year deal that calls for an increase of about $600 in teachers’ salaries to be effective in the 2020-21 school year. The measure is expected to be ratified at a board meeting on Oct. 14.

Meanwhile, bargainers met all weekend, then returned to talks Monday as the strike by 49,000 members of the UAW against GM continued. The Associated Press reported details of the talks include haggling over wages and profit sharing, new products for factories that GM wants to close, a faster route to full wages for new hires, and use of temporary workers.

The union says it wants a bigger share of GM’s more than $30 billion in profits over the past five years, while the auto-maker wants to bring labor costs in line with foreign-owned plants in the U.S. due to what they predict will be a future auto sales decline worldwide.

Talks have reportedly made some progress, but the impasse has resulted in protests and even arrests of some workers blocking traffic, harassing motorists and damaging vehicles in Tennessee.

Indiana has the second largest auto industry in the nation, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., directly employing more than 128,800 Hoosiers in 2016.

The state is home to four GM factories, employing nearly 7,000 hourly and salaried employees. Of those, more than 4,500 work at the Fort Wayne assembly plant. There is also a factory in Marion where workers produce stamped metal parts, blanks and sheet metal for assembly plants throughout North America. Bedford has an aluminum die-casting plant, and Kokomo has a components holding plant.

Ball State economics professor Michael Hicks told the Indianapolis Star that the longer the strike, the greater the impact will be on Indiana’s economy. Incomes of striking UAW members, he said, are going to drop significantly. Blue-collar workers will suffer the most in the strike, getting about $250 in strike pay per week, although they won’t immediately receive that pay.

News-Sentinel.com hopes the power of the UAW and its demand for solidarity won’t fly in the face of what’s best for the workers in negotiations with GM. These issues must be met with some amount of compromise on both sides in order to get our workers back on the job as soon as possible.

Unlike auto workers, teachers in Indiana are prohibited from going on strike. Teachers throughout the state have said they are not happy with stagnant pay. While similar laws against strikes exist in other states, they haven’t prevented teachers from walking out.

We’re thankful negotiations such as between FWCS and FWEA have helped prevent that kind of action. Likewise, the UAW needs to be reasonable with GM to get workers back on the job.

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