Slow progress in negotiations as GM strike enters 3rd day

The General Motors UAW strike has headed into its third day, and it's uncertain if the two sides are closer to ending the standoff.

Nearly 50,000 workers are withholding labor from GM. The rift between them may have deepened after the automaker stopped funding union workers' healthcare. They are now moving to the UAW's less expansive COBRA plan which does not cover dental, vision, or hearing.

"Basically it's another ploy to try and get the negotiators to settle on a contract. 'Oh if we keep them out there long enough and we make things hard for them, you know, they'll come back.' People at the table will take whatever we give them and folks will have to come back to work because they'll have so much hardships," said John Johnson, Jr., a GM worker.

He's worked for GM for more than 40 years and says the strike is overdue. He says workers deserve better pay, want the tiered wage system scrapped, and want temporary employees on a path to becoming permanent ones.  

"We've been giving and giving and giving to GM and we have not been getting anything  back. We gave up our cost of living," said Johnson.

Their cost of living will rise on the picket line. Union workers have to get by on $250 a week while on strike, and the first check won't be available until Sept. 30. For GM, the walkout is costing the automaker anywhere between $50 to $90 million a day.

"The reality is that the stakes can escalate very, very quickly. As you get into the end of its first week and start pushing into a second, the costs for both companies and union escalates very quickly," said Paul Eisenstein. Auto industry insider and publisher of the Detroit Bureau, Eisenstein says that could motivate both sides to get a deal done sooner rather than later.

But both sides are playing hardball - GM with healthcare, the UAW with a work stoppage that looks more like a full court press. 

"Not only did they strike the company's production plants, assembly lines, and parts plants, but they also struck some of the parts warehouses, which can interfere with efforts by GM simply to supply dealers and independent repair shops, as well as to handle recalls," Epstein says.

Another element heightening the tensions this round of negotiation is the charges of corruption within the UAW that have surfaced, which is something that can easily chip away at trust with the men and women of the UAW.  

Ten top UAW officials have been indicted.