UAW reaches tentative pact with General Motors, the last Detroit Three holdout

By: and - October 30, 2023 7:17 pm

Curt Cranford and Carolyn Nippa on the picket line outside General Motors’ Willow Run Redistribution Center in Belleville. | Kyle Davidson

The United Auto Workers on Monday reached a tentative contract agreement with General Motors on day 46 of the strike.

The announcement follows previous UAW tentative pacts with the other Detroit Three automakers, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis, which were announced on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. The union went on strike on Sept.15.

“Once again, we have won several astonishing victories…,” UAW President Shawn Fain said on Monday evening. “We were relentless in our fight to win a record contract, and that is exactly what we accomplished.”

Mary Barra, GM CEO and chair, confirmed the deal in a statement.

“GM is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the UAW that reflects the contributions of the team while enabling us to continue to invest in our future and provide good jobs in the U.S.,” Barra said. “We are looking forward to having everyone back to work across all of our operations, delivering great products for our customers, and winning as one team.” 

It looked as though the UAW and GM were close to a deal amid negotiations late last week, with the company matching the 25% raise included in Ford’s tentative agreement that would expire in April 2028. But the two sides did not clinch an agreement, so on Saturday, the UAW called up GM Spring Hill Manufacturing, which is south of Nashville, Tenn., to join the strike.

The tentative agreement with GM includes 25% in base wage increases through April 2028, and will cumulatively raise the top wage by 33% compounded with estimated cost of living adjustment to over $42 an hour. The starting wage will increase by 70% compounded with estimated COLA, to over $30 an hour, according to a UAW press release. 

UAW graphic

“Like the agreements with Ford and Stellantis, the GM agreement has turned record profits into a record contract,” the UAW said in a statement. “The deal includes gains valued at more than four times the gains from the union’s 2019 contract. It provides more in base wage increases than GM workers have received in the past 22 years.”  

Curt Cranford, 66, of Northville, is 38-year GM employee who works at Willow Run Redistribution in Belleville. 

“I like the way Shawn Fain did this one. I mean, we were the sole company picked in 2019,” Cranford said on Monday afternoon. 

The UAW carried out a 40-day strike against GM in 2019. But this time, the union launched a strike against all three U.S. automakers. 

“You know, there’s too many times I think the union and the company are too close together. … We gave up things years ago and it’s time to get some back,” Cranford added. “I’m gonna retire this year. So some of that stuff isn’t gonna affect me. I mean, the immediate raise that’d be good for me and all that. … I’m just glad for the people behind me.”

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

GM workers will return to work while the agreement goes through the ratification process, with the UAW National GM Council convening in Detroit to review the agreement, according to the UAW statement. 

The strike against the Detroit Three included about 46,000 workers and 40 plants and part centers across the nation. As part of the UAW’s “Stand Up Strike” strategy, not all plants went on strike, with leadership periodically calling up more workers to join the picket line at pivotal points in negotiations.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised the pact. 

“This agreement supports the hardworking men and women of the UAW and ensures that GM can continue to grow and expand right here in Michigan, where they were established over a century ago,” Whitmer said. “I urge swift ratification of this deal so we can keep competing with other states and nations to lead the future of mobility. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) toasted the GM agreement Monday afternoon before the deal was announced publicly. He highlighted the history of Flint’s 1936 to 1937 “The Sit Down Strikes” against GM, which led to the first collective bargaining agreement between workers and the automotive companies.

“When workers stand together, they can achieve great things. UAW members want what every American wants — to put in an honest days’ work for a good-paying job, a job that can support a family and allow workers to retire with dignity,” Kildee said. “In Congress, I will continue to be a champion for working people and unions so we can grow the middle class.”

President Joe Biden talked with Fain on Monday. Last month, the president joined Fain on the picket line at Willow Run Redistribution Center, which was a historic move for a sitting president.

 

“I applaud the UAW and General Motors for coming together after hard fought, good faith negotiations to reach a historic agreement to provide workers with the pay, benefits, and respect they deserve. With this landmark agreement with GM, the UAW has now reached historic tentative agreements with all of the Big Three American automakers,” Biden said. “This historic tentative agreement rewards the autoworkers who have sacrificed so much with the record raises, more paid leave, greater retirement security, and more rights and respect at work. I want to applaud the UAW and GM for agreeing to immediately bring back all of the GM workers who have been walking the picket line on behalf of their UAW brothers and sisters. 

“This historic contract is a testament to the power of unions and collective bargaining to build strong middle-class jobs while helping our most iconic American companies thrive,” Biden added. “The final word on these tentative agreements will ultimately come from UAW members themselves in the days and weeks to come.”

Carolyn Nippa, 51 of Canton, has worked at GM for 26 years and has been through three union strikes during her lifetime. On Monday afternoon, Nippa was on the same picket line that Biden had joined.

“We gave up concessions back in 2007 to 2008 and, you know, it’s time to get them back,” Nippa said. “We were falling behind. We were definitely falling behind.”

Nippa praised the union’s strategy of launching “a different kind of strike” against all the automakers at once instead of picking one company as a strike target, like in the past.

“It was very effective and I’d like to see the same formula going forward,” Nippa said.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.

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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson covers state government alongside health care, business and the environment. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He previously covered community events, breaking news, state policy and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.

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