This story has been updated with new information
Members of the United Auto Workers have ratified a new a labor agreement with General Motors that raises the company’s labor costs but allow it to close plants in Ohio, Maryland and Michigan.
Ratification of the contract on a surprisingly close vote of 56% to 44% indicates that many union members were dissatisfied with the contract, which failed to win back the purchasing power union members have lost in the past decade.
The focus will now turn to Ford, which has already sealed up much of the smaller details of a deal with the union.
The new GM agreement does put some new limits on the use of temporary workers and shortens the path to full pay for new full-time employees. New workers will now reach the top wage of $32.32 at end of the contract in 2023 within four years rather than eight years, which was written into the 2015 contract.
According to the Detroit News, the workers at the following plants approved the deal: Flint Assembly plant; the Flint Metal Center and Flint Engine plants; Detroit-Hamtramck; Lansing Grand River Assembly plant; Bay City Powertrain; Pontiac Metal Center; Warren Technical Center; and Toledo Transmission.
Meanwhile Lansing Delta Township; Tonawanda Engine in New York; Bedford Casting Operations in Indiana; Denver Parts Distribution Center in Colorado, Lockport Components in Lockport, New York, and the Lansing Redistribution Center, all voted it down.
“General Motors members have spoken. 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,” Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and director of the UAW-GM Department.
The ratified contract includes an economic package of an $11,000 per member signing bonus, performance bonuses, two 3% annual raises and two 4% lump sum payments and holding the line on health care costs.
GM also agreed to remove the $12,000 cap on profit sharing in the new four-year agreement. Union members will get 3% base-wage increases in the second and fourth years of the contract and 4% lump-sum bonuses in the first and third years.
The contract was more popular with skilled trades workers, who got a $1,000 payment to cover the cost of new tools as part of the agreement in addition to the $11,000 ratification bonus. Some 66% of the skilled trades workers voted for the contract, providing a crucial measure of support for the agreement.
GM hailed the new agreement.
“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,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.
“GM is proud to provide good-paying jobs to tens of thousands of employees in America and to grow our substantial investment in the U.S. As one team, we can move forward and stay focused on our priorities of safety and building high-quality cars, trucks and crossovers for our customers.”
The new deal clears the path for GM to close four facilities: Lordstown Assembly in Lordstown, Ohio; a parts distribution center in Fontana, California; Baltimore Operations in Baltimore, Maryland; and Warren Transmission in Warren, Michigan.
The vote has many on social media grousing about the results, the contract and even the strategy used by the senior leadership. Others still suggest that while the new deal may not be ideal, it was the best that could be had unless members were prepared to stay on strike much longer.
“(I)t seems so obvious that this strike was not used for contract gains, but rather, contract ratification,” wrote on Facebook poster.
UAW members at the Ford and Fiat Chrysler are expressing their feelings about the deal that GM and the union hammered out and thus far, it’s not looking like it would be well received by members at either automaker.
“If that contract comes here, my answer will still be HELL NO,” wrote a Ford poster, while another said he’d saved enough money to remain on strike for a full calendar year. Talks with Ford clearly will see difficult moments.
Michael Strong contributed to this story.