Nation and World briefs for October 17

  • Picketing United Auto Workers Richard Rivera, left, and Will Myatt react to news of a tentative contract agreement with General Motors, in Langhorne, Pa., Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Bargainers for General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative contract deal on Wednesday that could end a monthlong strike that brought the company’s U.S. factories to a standstill. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Workers celebrate deal with GM, show union power in industry

DETROIT — On the picket lines at a General Motors transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, passing cars honked and striking workers celebrated a tentative contract deal by munching on 10 pizzas dropped off by a supporter.

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They had carried signs for 31 days and demonstrated the muscle the United Auto Workers union still has over Detroit’s three manufacturers.

Details of the four-year pact weren’t released, but GM’s latest offer to end the monthlong strike included wage increases and lump-sum payments, top-notch health insurance at little cost to workers, promises of new products for many U.S. factories and a path to full-time work for temporary workers.

That’s a big difference from what GM wanted going into the talks: to slash total labor costs at its factories, which are about $13 per hour higher than at foreign automakers in the U.S.

Terry Dittes, the UAW’s chief bargainer with GM, said the deal offers “major gains” for 49,000 union workers who have been walking picket lines since Sept. 16. They’ll stay off work for at least a couple more days while union committees decide if they will bless the deal. Then workers will have to vote on it.

Brexit talks inch closer to a deal ahead of summit

BRUSSELS — The European Union and Britain inched ever closer to a Brexit deal, with the leaders of France and Germany saying they expected an agreement could be sealed at Thursday’s EU summit.

Positive vibes radiated from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint news conference Wednesday in Toulouse, France, where Merkel said that negotiations were “in the final stretch.”

Macron added that “I want to believe that a deal is being finalized and that we can approve it” Thursday, when EU leaders are due to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Brussels.

Differences between the two sides remained but were narrowing to some technical and complicated customs and value-added tax issues, officials said. Negotiating teams were working into the night at EU headquarters to solve them.

“Good progress, and work is ongoing,” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters Wednesday evening.

Chicago teachers to strike in nation’s 3rd largest district

CHICAGO — Chicago parents and community groups are scrambling to prepare for a massive teachers’ strike set to begin Thursday, prompting the city to preemptively cancel classes in the nation’s third-largest school district.

The Chicago Teachers Union confirmed Wednesday night that its 25,000 members would not return to their classrooms Thursday after months of negotiation between the union and Chicago Public Schools failed to resolve disputes over pay and benefits, class size and teacher preparation time.

The strike is Chicago’s first major walkout by teachers since 2012 and city officials announced early Wednesday that all classes had been canceled for Thursday in hopes of giving more planning time to 300,000 students’ families.

“We want this to be a short strike with an agreement that will benefit our schools and our teachers. We have a ways to go,” Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said during a union news conference. “We actually want to see improvement on all the issues we are talking about here.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was disappointed by the union’s decision to strike.

Parents of killed teen reject Trump’s attempted introduction

WASHINGTON — The grieving parents of a British teenager who was killed in a car crash involving an American diplomat’s wife felt ambushed when President Donald Trump tried to get them to meet with the woman in front of the press, attorneys for the couple said Wednesday.

Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn traveled to Washington on Tuesday seeking to have the woman’s diplomatic immunity lifted. Instead, Trump and national security adviser Robert O’Brien surprised the family by inviting Anne Sacoolas to the White House and suggesting Dunn’s parents meet with her in front of the White House press corps.

Attorney Mark Stephens told The Associated Press the couple had no idea Sacoolas would be in the building when they were there Tuesday and were stunned by the proposition. He said the couple wants to meet with Sacoolas at some point, but not in a surprise meeting staged for reporters.

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“If there’s going to be a meeting like that, it should not involve a surprise, a jack-in-the-box, pop-out-of-a-circus-tent meeting seven weeks after the loss,” said Radd Seiger, a retired lawyer who is a neighbor of the family and accompanied them to the White House. “For this to happen, you would want some heavy-duty therapy and you want to meet in a neutral environment.”

Trump told reporters Wednesday that he thought the family had wanted to meet with Sacoolas, but that “they weren’t ready for it” Tuesday.

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