UAW looks to have scored big victories in jobs, wages and benefits in GM strike

By: - October 17, 2019 5:16 am

Workers participate in “Solidarity Sunday” at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, Sept. 22, 2019 | Andrew Roth

As the UAW National Council is set to meet Thursday to decide whether to recommend its members ratify the tentative deal reached Wednesday with General Motors, reports indicate that the union has won significant victories on increased jobs, wages and benefits.

Almost 50,000 workers have been on strike since Sept. 16, the first major work stoppage since 2007 prior to the Great Recession. If the National Council approves the agreement, details will be sent to union locals for members to vote on it.

“A proposed tentative agreement between General Motors and the UAW is a positive step forward,” U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) said in a statement Wednesday. “I respect the hardworking men and women of the United Auto Workers, who will make the final decision on whether or not to ratify their contract. Workers deserve a fair shake from GM that includes good wages, strong health care, job security and a commitment from the company to make their vehicles in America.”

The terms of the strike haven’t been made public, but the Detroit Free Press reports that the union won 9,000 jobs retained and created through company manufacturing investments. That’s more than the $7 billion investment the UAW had offered, resulting in 5,400 new or retained jobs.

Other details reported by the Free Press include a $9,000 ratification bonus; wage increases of at least 3% plus lump sum payments; the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant will remain open and build an electric pickup; improvements in vacation time for newer workers; and a path for temporary workers for permanent employment.

“It has been a grueling month for striking UAW workers, but this tentative agreement shows that speaking up together for better pay and benefits, and fairer treatment on the job, is worth it,” state Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in a statement Wednesday. “The UAW workers I have spoken with in Genesee County are eager to get back to work building the world’s best heavy-duty trucks under a fair contract that reflects their skills and hard work.”

The UAW started out with GM and is also negotiating contracts with Ford and Fiat-Chrysler Automotive.

Workers remained on the picket line Thursday, as the strike continues until the agreement is approved by members.

The GM strike was raised in the fourth presidential debate held in Ohio Tuesday night. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was asked about that and how to bring jobs back to the United States from overseas.

“I stood with unions because, right now, unions in America are under attack. As union membership has gone down, we have seen a stratification of wealth and income in this country,” Booker said.

“So the other thing that I’ll do as president of the United States is begin to fight again to see union strength in this country spread, to make sure we have sectoral bargaining so that unions from the auto workers all the way to fast food workers can ensure that we improve workers’ conditions and make sure that every American has a living wage in this country.”

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) was asked the same question. He noted he’s done strike support in Lordstown, Ohio, which he said “has just been devastated, decimated by GM and their malfeasance, paying effectively zero in taxes last year.

“What they want is a shot,” O’Rourke said of workers. “And they want fairness in how we treat workers in this country, which they are not receiving today. Part of the way to do that is through our trade deals, making sure that if we trade with Mexico, Mexican workers are allowed to join unions, which they are effectively unable to do today. Not only is that bad for the Mexican worker, it puts the American worker at a competitive disadvantage.”

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls have voiced their support for UAW strikers from the start, with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar among those also visiting workers on the picket line.

On Wednesday, Sanders tweeted that the tentative deal was a “positive step forward.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.