UAW Gears Up For Contract Talks With Detroit's Big 3

The United Auto Workers union met in Detroit this week to prepare for contract negotiations this summer with Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

Each of the Big Three automakers is in better shape now than when they last signed labor contracts in 2007. With positive news for the car companies, the UAW says it's a good time for them to negotiate.

But there are other concerns to consider. The UAW meeting was held against the backdrop of recent fights between public-sector workers — especially in Ohio and Wisconsin — and their governors.

"They're putting the same agenda in all these statehouses across the country," says Bob King, president of the UAW. "It's incumbent on us as labor to come together and have a common strategy of how we're going to fight them."

Figuring out that strategy was part of what union leaders talked about, but the real subject was upcoming contract negotiations.

"You always want the companies to be doing well when you're going into negotiations," King says. "You're in much better shape. You can do more for your membership when the companies are doing well."

But that could be pie-in-the-sky thinking.

Sean McAlinden with the Center for Automotive Research says the union is unlikely to win back major concessions, and their leaders know it.

"The automotive market hasn't fully recovered by any means," McAlinden says. "It's facing still a number of high-risk factors like higher gasoline prices or parts shortages."

McAlinden says how things go will largely depend on where gas prices and the economy are when negotiations begin in earnest this summer.

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