Auto workers ratify contract with GM, end six-week strike

By: - October 25, 2019 4:38 pm

Rep. Elissa Slotkin with UAW workers in Lansing, Sept. 23, 2019 | Allison Donahue

The six-week United Auto Workers strike of General Motors ended Friday afternoon as about 49,000 workers voted to ratify a four-year contract.

The union will now have to reach similar deals at Ford and Fiat-Chrysler, with the next round of negotiations reportedly set to occur at Ford.

The contract includes a pathway to full-time work for temporary workers, a large part of the company’s workforce since the Great Recession and a major sticking point throughout negotiations. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at “Solidarity Sunday,” Sept. 22, 2019 | Andrew Roth

It also provides gains for both salaried and hourly workers. Key tenets of the deal are an $11,000 per member signing bonus, performance bonuses, two 3% annual raises and two 4% lump sum payments, and health care costs will remain the same. 

“General Motors members have spoken,” Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and director of the UAW-GM Department, said in a statement. “We are all so incredibly proud of UAW-GM members who captured the hearts and minds of a nation. Their sacrifice and courageous stand addressed the two-tier [wage] structure and permanent temporary worker classification that has plagued working class Americans.”

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Work at GM facilities is set to commence over the weekend or on Monday morning, according to the company. 

“We delivered a contract that recognizes our employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company, with a strong wage and benefit package and additional investment and job growth in our U.S. operations,” Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO, said in a statement. 

UAW picket at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, Sept. 25, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Voting results at various UAW local chapters around the state were somewhat mixed. Fifty-eight percent of workers at Local 602 in Lansing, for instance, rejected the agreement. Fifty-seven percent of workers at Local 163 in Romulus voted in support. At Local 652, also in Lansing, 75% of 1,431 workers supported the deal. 

Sixty percent of workers at Local 598 in Flint supported the contract. At the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, which had been slated to close but instead will remain operational and build electric pickup trucks, workers overwhelmingly supported the deal. 

Still, GM plans to close a handful of plants, including the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly facility and that’s led to consternation, and some “no” votes, according to news reports. 

Anderson Economic Group, an East Lansing economic consulting group, summarizes that the contract offers big wins for workers and “big costs” for GM, to the tune of about $485 million. 

Earlier this week AEG estimated that GM has lost about $1.75 billion in revenue since the strike began on Sept. 16. The strike has cost GM and supplier workers about $989 million, according to the AEG analysis. 

Union officials had acknowledged they were ready for a lengthy strike, which became the longest work stoppage for autoworkers in the U.S. in 50 years, according to the UAW. 

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Grand Rapids, Ssept. 9, 2019 | Nick Manes

Political leaders around the state quickly praised the ratification of the contract, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“This is good news for our working families and our economy,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Michiganders are some of the hardest working people in this country, and they deserve to be treated with respect. I was proud to stand with the UAW as they negotiated for more American jobs, better wages, and good benefits, and my administration is committed to continuing our work to close the skills gap and protect hardworking Michigan families.” 

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.