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United Auto Workers’ GM strike reaches day five and pain is spreading

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16: Members of the United Auto Workers union protest outside the General Motors Arlington Assembly Plant on September 16, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. About 48,000 UAW members at General Motors walked off the job early today, shutting down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., according to published reports. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union strike against GM showed no signs of a quick conclusion as its impact on other plants and workers continues to spread.

GM has about 10,000 US suppliers, and many have had to halt production of parts they would normally deliver to the nation’s largest automaker. As the strike entered its fifth day, many are laying off workers who build those parts and other supplies for GM.

Supplier Nexteer Automotive, which makes steering systems, told the Detroit Free Press that it was forced to temporarily lay off workers due to the GM strike. The company did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Randy Ryerson, a spokesman for Penske Logistics, confirmed to CNN Business that one of his company’s subsidiaries laid off 107 drivers who were unable to make deliveries.

And GM itself halted a second Canadian assembly line due to the lack of parts for vehicles being built in its plant in Oshawa, Ontario, bringing the number of idled workers at the plant to about 2,000. The company had previously announced it was shutting one of two lines there, idling 1,200 employees. Only the metal stamping part of the plant remains operational.

Canadian trade union Unifor said it expects another GM plant in St. Catharines, Ontario to shut down on Monday, which will result in another 700 members being off the job. GM did not have any comment on that statement.

The cost of the strike is also starting to mount.

Anderson Economic Group, an East Lansing, Michigan think tank, estimated Friday that workers in Michigan alone are losing $9.3 million in wages each day–$6.8 million from GM for permanent and temporary workers, and another $2.5 million in wages from suppliers. GM has 31 factories and 21 other facilities spread across nine states, mostly in the center of the country.

Nearly 50,000 hourly workers at GM have been on strike since early Monday, and it appears they’ll stay out for at least the next few days. While negotiators were at the table Friday, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, who heads the bargaining team, told members in a letter late Thursday to expect negotiations to continue through the weekend, if not beyond.

“Some progress has been made, but there are still many of our memberships’ issues that remain unresolved,” he said in the letter.

The union is pressing the company to agree to relocate some vehicles now being built at plants in Mexico to the two US assembly plants now slated for closure. The union said GM builds far more vehicles in Mexico than rivals Ford or Fiat Chrysler.

GM said it has put forward “solutions” for the two plants – in Lordstown, Ohio, and Detroit – and is offering to invest $7 billion in its US operations to create or keep 5,400 hourly jobs. A person familiar with the company’s offer said it is proposing to build an electric truck in the Detroit plant and lithium batteries for electric vehicles in Lordstown. But that work is likely years away, meaning the plants would be dark for some time.

GM announced plans to close those plants, as well as transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and Baltimore, in November. The four plants employed about 3,000 hourly workers when those closings were announced. GM said it has found other jobs for about 2,300 of those workers, but many had to relocate.

The union and company are also split on GM’s use of temporary hourly workers, as well as about wages and benefits.

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