The 1970 General Motors Strike - Part 1 (Pre-Strike)
The 2007 auto union-management negotiations spotlighted the economic difficulties into which the industry has fallen. The 2007 outcome is in contrast with the situation in 1970 when the United Auto Workers chose GM as the target company. GM was so big that certain plants which supplied other auto firms had to be kept going by the union to avoid shutting down production at the other firms. (The union's strategy was to strike one firm at a time.) The lengthy strike was big enough to affect the national GDP. In the background was acceleration of inflation in the late 1960s. In 1967, the union agreed to a cap on its COLA (cost-of-living adjustment or escalator clause), apparently not anticipating the inflation that would occur. Thus, one of the issues in the 1970s strike was uncapping the COLA. In the second clip of Part 1, note that the GM representative raises the issue of inflationary settlements. But the Nixon administration at that point did not react. Only a year later, however, it imposed anti-inflation wage-price controls. The clips in this series (there are 3 parts) give a hint of the tension in the union between the US and Canadian locals. (In the 1980s, the Canadian locals split off from the UAW and formed a separate Canadian union.) Part 2 of this series contains interviews with strikers concerning the costs to them as the strike continues. Prior savings, availability of food stamps and welfare, and working spouses are discussed. The role of the FMCS mediator - pushing for a settlement - is mentioned. Part 3 deals with the tentative settlement. Diverse views within the union are depicted. The final clip also provides a cost-benefit analysis of the strike that is questionable in the context of an ongoing bargaining relationship in which the parties renegotiate every few years.
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