DETROIT _ The gloom-and-doom predictions began as early as a year ago: There's no way General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers can reach a new contract agreement this summer without a strike.
Not so, said Stephen Yokich, the UAW vice president who ultimately will decide whether a work stoppage is in the union's best interest as part of bargaining a new contract with the world's largest automaker.
"I think you're looking for a fight, but we're not going to let you create one like you did in '87 and '90," Yokich told reporters Monday after the first day of leading GM-UAW local leaders through the union's proposed bargaining resolutions. He discussed some of the issues surrounding this summer's talks.
The triennial bargaining ritual holds greater significance this time around because GM is in the midst of a massive downsizing that includes closing 23 plants, eliminating 74,000 jobs and reorganizing its North American business.
On the positive side, relations between top GM executives and the UAW are much improved. That hasn't filtered down to all plants yet, but building trust takes time, Yokich said.
"We didn't have trust in the '90 negotiations, and we still got it done," without a strike, Yokich said.
Talks between the UAW and GM open June 23. The current contract expires Sept. 14.
Yokich made it no secret he would be happier without media coverage of the talks. At best, he sees the media as a necessary evil, but with the emphasis on evil.
"I'm not talking about individuals," Yokich said. …