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Autoworkers, GM Continue Talks During Strike

United Auto Workers union-represented employees walked out of General Motors plants Monday in the first nationwide strike against a U.S. automaker since 1976. Two experts recount the day's events and the walkout's impact.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    From Michigan to Indiana and Texas, thousands of United Auto Workers walked off their jobs at General Motors plants and joined picket lines.

  • UNITED AUTO WORKER UNION MEMBER:

    Today is like, I guess, just a boiling point, because for the last four years we've given up so much trying to help the company itself, and we've just gotten nothing in return.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Representatives from the union and General Motors failed to reach an agreement for a new contract.

  • UNITED AUTO WORKER UNION MEMBER:

    Nobody wins. Nobody ever wins. It's a shame that grown people can't sit across the table from one another and not try to take something from somebody else.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    GM's contract with the union expired 10 days ago but was extended hour by hour. Both sides were mum on specifics, but talks centered on job security and on health care benefits; those benefits cost the company more than $5 billion a year, or about $1,500 a car.

    GM has been pushing a so-called "health care trust," known as the Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, or VEBA. That would allow the company to move $51 billion in unfunded health costs off its books into a trust to be managed by the union. For its part, the union sought more job security for its workers.

    Ron Gettelfinger is the president of the UAW.

  • RON GETTELFINGER, President, United Auto Workers:

    We're talking about investment, and we're talking about job creation. We're talking about product being committed into the plant. We're also talking about what our workers deserve out of this contract from an economic standpoint.

    We were very disappointed in this round of negotiations to discover as we moved forward that it was a one-way set of negotiations. It was going to be General Motors' way at the expense of the workers.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    General Motors did not hold a news conference. Instead, they issued a written statement and expressed disappointment with the union's decision. It said, "The bargaining involves complex, difficult issues that affect the job security of our U.S. workforce and the long-term viability of the company."

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