Auto industry expert speaks on UAW-GM agreement ratification

UAW workers have approved their new deal with GM with almost 55 percent in favor.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 8:50 PM EST
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MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) – UAW workers have approved their new deal with GM with almost 55 percent in favor.

One auto industry expert said this is the closest vote he can remember, and he gave some insight as to possible reasons the vote wasn’t unanimous.

There were a lot of different issues that were important to UAW members in this agreement.

“It’s probably pretty likely that somebody had a pet issue that didn’t work out exactly they wanted it to, and because of that, that probably accounts for most of the no votes,” said John Grether, a professor of practice at Kettering University.

That was his take on why 45 percent of UAW members voted no on the UAW-GM tentative agreement.

Grether was quick to point out that the agreement still passed with 55 percent of the vote, but he said when you consider that most UAW-GM ratification votes have had yes numbers around 66 percent, it’s easy to see why the outcome of this vote was in doubt.

“It could be because there is a fair number of people who were all in behind Shawn Fain. It could also be because there are people who are concerned that their jobs will be technologically displaced over time,” Grether said.

He said he believes this contract will eventually lead to a change in how automakers do business.

“The marginal increase in labor costs for all the car manufacturers from the Big Three is going to be such that they’ll now have a special incentive to automate as much production as they can,” he said.

Grether said he thinks there’s a possibility things inside the plant could look a lot different in about 10 years. For now, he called the ratification of the agreement between the UAW and GM a win for UAW President Shawn Fain.

“He got most of what he wanted. Were there details that probably could’ve gone the other way? Sure, but this is a fairly unprecedented contract so, I think in terms of short-term labor contract negotiations, yeah, big win,” he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Nov. 16, the yes votes are in the lead regarding UAW agreements with both Ford and Stellantis.

Voting at Ford is expected to wrap up on Saturday, while the vote at Stellantis should be done on Tuesday.

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