DETROIT — Leaders of the United Auto Workers union have extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely, but the pact with General Motors is still set to expire Saturday night.
The move puts added pressure on bargainers for both sides as they approach the contract deadline and the union starts to make preparations for a strike.
The contract extension was confirmed Friday by UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg, who declined further comment on the talks.
The union has picked GM as the target company, meaning it is the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout. GM’s contract with the union is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
It’s possible that the four-year GM contract also could be extended or a deal could be reached, but it’s more likely that 49,200 UAW members could walk out of GM plants as early as Sunday because union and company demands are so far apart.
Picket line schedules already have been posted near the entrance to one local UAW office in Detroit.
Art Wheaton, an auto industry expert at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, expects the GM contract to be extended for a time, but he says the gulf between both sides is wide.
“GM is looking through the windshield ahead, and it looks like nothing but land mines,” he said of a possible recession, trade disputes and the expense of developing electric and autonomous vehicles. “I think there’s really going to be a big problem down the road in matching the expectations of the union and the willingness of General Motors to be able to give the membership what it wants.”
Plant-level union leaders from all over the country will be in Detroit on Sunday to talk about the next steps, and after that, the union likely will make an announcement.
But leaders are likely to face questions about an expanding federal corruption probe that snared a top official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California.