Features, headline, Law and Politics, National, Retail

UAW Reaches Tentative Deal With General Motors

October 16, 2019

By Steve Wishnia

Striking United Auto Workers at GM could be going back to work this month.

DETROIT, Mich.—The United Auto Workers reached a tentative contract agreement with General Motors Oct. 16, possibly ending the month-long strike by more than 48,000 workers at the company’s U.S. plants.

The union said the proposed deal “represents major gains for UAW workers,” and that its negotiators had recommended that its GM National Council accept the agreement and send it to members for ratification. The council is scheduled to meet Oct. 17 to decide that. When the strikers return to work will not be determined until after that meeting, UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg told LaborPress.

Vice President Terry Dittes, director of the union’s GM Department, said in a statement that the union would not comment on details “until the UAW GM leaders gather together and receive all details.” 

The strike, which began just after midnight on Sept. 16, put workers on the picket lines at GM plants from Michigan to Texas, Pennsylvania to Tennessee. It also led to layoffs due to lack of parts at plants in Mexico and Canada.

The main areas of dispute were fair wages and job security. The UAW wanted “a defined path to permanent seniority” for the temporary workers who now make up about 7% of GM’s workforce, and to phase out the two-tier wages it agreed to in 2009 when the company was in danger of bankruptcy. “Legacy workers” on the job since 2007 or earlier make $28 to $33 an hour, while “in progression” workers hired since then start at $17 and reach $28 after eight years. Temps make about $15.

The UAW also wanted GM to reopen the three plants it closed earlier this year—in Lordstown, Ohio, Baltimore, and the Detroit suburb of Warren—and keep open the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, scheduled to close in January. It argued that the company could do that by producing new vehicles in the U.S. instead of in Mexico, where it pays workers with 10 years experience around $4.50 an hour.

The company had planned to close a fifth plant, in Oshawa, Ontario, but relented after protests by the Canadian union Unifor.

GM proposed using Lordstown to manufacture batteries, but without a guarantee that its workers would receive the same pay they got for assembling cars, It has considered building a new electric sport-utility vehicle at Detroit-Hamtramck.

National union leaders praised the proposed agreement. “Today’s news provides all of us hope that a fair contract is at hand,” Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said in a statement. “At significant short-term cost, the Auto Workers have insisted on a better future for their families and their communities.” The strikers included 4,500 workers at GM’s Arlington plant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“I’ve never felt prouder to be a union member,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “I commend the UAW’s national negotiators for standing firm to deliver on what their members demanded and hope this will bring an end to one of the most courageous fights I have ever seen. This is the latest victory in a wave of collective action happening across America.”

“We are extremely grateful to the thousands of Americans who donated goods and helped our striking workers and their families,” Dittes said. 

October 16, 2019

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