Union workers appear ready to reject the contract

Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike at a General Motors assembly plant that makes the US automaker’s full-size sport utility vehicles, in another expansion of the strike in Arlington, Texas, October 24, 2023.

James Breeden | Reuters

DETROIT — Members of the General Motors Auto Workers union appear very close to voting down a tentative union deal that ended nearly six weeks of labor strikes against the automaker.

A majority of UAW members at several major GM plants voted against the agreement. Combined, the facilities represent 18,580, or 40%, of GM’s 46,000 total unionized employees.

The results of voting at a number of smaller GM facilities, as well as the SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, are not known or have not yet been finalized. Several small utilities as well as assembly plants in Michigan and Kansas voted in favor of the deal.

The UAW declined to comment. GM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rejecting the deal, which was reached on October 30, would prolong the historically contentious round of negotiations between the UAW and the Detroit automakers. Similar tentative agreements at Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis have so far received higher voter approvals among those automakers’ unionized workforces.

As of Wednesday morning, the UAW has not updated Track her vote For GM to reflect the many factories that voted against the deal. As of midday Tuesday — before a majority of workers at GM’s Corvette plant in Kentucky, the Buick and Chevrolet crossover plant in Michigan, and truck plants in Missouri and Indiana voted against the agreement — the agreement had 52% approval.

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It has become common in recent years for UAW members to reject tentative agreements: Workers at Fiat Chrysler, now known as Stellantis, voted against a deal during talks in 2015, and Mack Trucks rejected a contract offer last month.

If the GM deal is voted down, UAW President Sean Fine and other union leaders will have to decide how to move forward and secure a better deal for GM union workers. They could restart strikes against the automaker, try to reopen negotiations, or both.

All options are basically back on the table for the union and the automaker. The company could agree to reopen talks or it could follow what Mack Trucks did recently and submit the previous offer with little or no changes – known as the “last best and final offer” – potentially bringing it back to members for a vote.

The UAW reaches tentative deals with each of the automakers individually, so each is voted on separately. They do not depend on each other to be ratified.

The standard deal at GM, like those at Ford and Stellantis, included 25% pay increases, the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments and other benefits.

But UAW members, especially veteran workers, expressed their disapproval of the deal, citing the inflated expectations created by Fine, who advocated and ultimately failed to secure a 32-hour workweek and better retirement benefits.

GM has the largest number of traditional workers on a percentage basis, followed by Ford and Stellantis. Stellantis also relies more heavily on temporary workers, who will largely be converted into full-time employees and become eligible for higher wages by the end of the deals.

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A rejection at GM would be a black eye on negotiations for Fain. Although he said union members have the final say on contracts, he and other union leaders praised the historic deal, saying they negotiated every penny from automakers.

Fine promoted union contracts during events last week with President Joe Biden and during a US Senate committee hearing, as voting continues.

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