UAW strikers help GM cope with slow-down

Strikes continued at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. and General Motors Corp. plants on Sunday -- and a union leader told American Axle strikers to prepare for a long haul, dampening hopes of progress in ending the nearly eight-week long walkout.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 235, which represents American Axle workers in Detroit, were told in a meeting Sunday that negotiators were making progress on small issues, such as safety and skilled trades classifications. However, the company and the union remain far apart on wages and benefits -- the issues that sparked the walkout on Feb. 26.

Weekend bargaining also didn't resolve labor disputes at four GM plants that are either on strike or threatening to strike as early as Tuesday.

In each case, however, both the company and the union have agreed to continue negotiating.

"We're not going to characterize the negotiations," GM spokesman Dan Flores said on Sunday. "But it's encouraging that discussions continue."

The cancellation of a major UAW rally last week and Sunday's meeting with American Axle union members were seen by some as signs of progress in those negotiations, but movement has apparently slowed.

"We need to keep our members informed so they are prepared for the battle we are facing," said UAW Local 235 President Adrian King.King said he will ask UAW leadership to reschedule Friday's canceled rally. Many leaving Sunday's meeting said more strikers than normal plan to congregate at American Axle's headquarters Thursday, the day of the company's annual meeting.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said she thinks some progress has been made. GM, which is American Axle's largest customer, has not gotten involved with those negotiations but is now battling labor problems of its own.

The Delta Township strike has halted production of the company's popular crossover vehicles.

And the Chevrolet Malibu, one of GM's most critical vehicles, is threatened by a strike at the Kansas City, Kan., factory where it is built. A Grand Rapids metal stamping plant that issued a strike threat last week could exercise that option on Friday. Negotiations continue at a Warren transmission factory.

The UAW has agreed to give GM at least 12 hours before a strike.


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