GM has been chosen as the lead company in the UAW contract renegotiation talks. That means that the UAW will come to a contractual agreement with GM first, and that contract will be used as the template for negotiations with the other two carmakers, Chrysler and Ford.
Of course, that also means that GM becomes the first target of a strike. The UAW's agreements with all three carmakers ends today, September 14th, and Chrysler and Ford have managed to work out extensions. GM, however, has not, and the UAW has told its members to be ready for a strike that could come as early as today.
[Source: Auto News, sub req'd]
Everybody has a lot at stake. The last thing GM wants is a strike, but it and the other American makers desperately need to shrink the $20-per-hour difference in labor wages that they pay compared to Japanese companies that build locally. They also want to remove the profit-busting cloud of pension liabilities. With the Detroit makers reeling, the UAW knows it can't overplay its hand, but it still has 190,000 active members and even more retirees that it wants to make sure don't suddenly lose the benefits they've been working decades for. Solutions don't look like they'll come quickly, but the clock is ticking louder than ever for all involved.