UAW strike closing in on week 4

The 49,000 General Motors-UAW workers who have been on the picket line since Sept. 16 will soon learn if a tentative four-year contract will be approved.

Local 668 was one of the first in Mid-Michigan to vote, and passed it, with 73 percent of skilled trades approving it, and 75 percent of production.

Local 362 in Bay City and Local 598 in Flint approved the four-year contract as well.

UAW Local 651 voted not to ratify the contract, with 63 percent of members voting no.

And UAW Local 659 voted to ratify the tentative deal.

Voting is scheduled to end at 4 p.m. on Oct. 25.

Factory-level officials from the United Auto Workers union voted to recommend the agreement to members at a daylong meeting in Detroit. But they also voted not to return to factories unless members approve the deal.

The company and the UAW reached a deal that would give workers a mix of pay raises, lump sum payments and an $11,000 signing bonus. In return, the contract allows GM to proceed with factory closures in Lordstown, Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and near Baltimore.

"I'm glad we have a tentative. Hopefully, it's what we had to get what we need," UAW Local 659 Vice President Frank Trubino said.

Trubino is hopeful the tentative agreement will lead to a better outcome for picketing union members who have been on strike for a month.

He said the issues of higher wages, better healthcare, and more paths to full employment for temporary workers were all crucial bargaining points.

"It's going to have to be a collective for everybody. Hopefully there's something in there that will make everybody happy," Trubino said.

You can watch the UAW's full press conference below:

The UAW has released information on the tentative deal:

CLICK HERE: For tentative deal information for hourly workers

Some of the highlights for hourly workers, according to the UAW, include:

  • $11,000 ratification bonus for seniority employees, and a $4,500 ratification bonus for temporary employees.
  • $12,000 cap on profit sharing payouts has been eliminated
  • 3% GWIs in the second and fourth years, and 4% lump sums in the first and third years for eligible permanent manufacturing employees.
  • Beginning Jan. 2, 2020, full-time temporary workers get a shortened path to permanent status, and beginning Jan. 2, 2021, provides a path for short-time temporary employees to convert to regular status.
  • No changes to healthcare.
  • Three facilities will be closed: Lordstown, OH, Warren, MI, and Baltimore. Detroit Hamtramck will remain open.

CLICK HERE: For tentative deal information for salary workers

Some of the highlights for salary workers, according to the UAW, include:

  • Education/Development Bonus of $11,000.
  • 66 holidays over 4 years
  • Increased full-time nurse uniform allowance to $1,500 annually.

The deal was hammered out after months of bargaining but won't bring an immediate end to the strike by 49,000 hourly workers. They will likely stay on the picket lines for at least two more days as two union committees vote on the deal, after which the members will have to approve.

“The number one priority of the national negotiation team has been to secure a strong and fair contract that our members deserve,” said UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, Director of the UAW GM Department.

The company offered to build a new electric pickup truck to keep the Detroit-Hamtramck plant open and to build an electric vehicle battery factory in or near Lordstown, Ohio, where GM is closing an assembly plant. The battery factory would employ far fewer workers and pay less money than the assembly plant.

SLIDESHOW: UAW on the strike line

GM and the union have been negotiating at a time of troubling uncertainty for the U.S. auto industry. Driven up by the longest economic expansion in American history, auto sales appear to have peaked and are now heading in the other direction. GM and other carmakers are also struggling to make the transition to electric and autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump's trade war with China and his tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have raised costs for auto companies. A revamped North American free trade deal is stalled in Congress, raising doubts about the future of America's trade in autos and auto parts with Canada and Mexico, which last year came to $257 billion.

Amid that uncertainty, GM workers have wanted to lock in as much as they can before things get ugly. They argue that they had given up pay raises and made other concessions to keep GM afloat during its 2009 trip through bankruptcy protection. Now that GM has been nursed back to health — earning $2.42 billion in its latest quarter — they want a bigger share.

>>Read more: UAW members optimistic about tentative agreement<<

If approved, the contract agreement will set the pattern for negotiations at Fiat Chrysler and Ford. It wasn't clear which company the union would bargain with next, or whether there would be another strike.

In past years, it's taken a minimum of three or four days and as long as several weeks for the national ratification vote. Workers took almost two weeks to finish voting on their last GM agreement, in October of 2015. Then, skilled trades workers rejected it, causing further delays.

This time around — with a federal corruption investigation that has implicated the past two UAW presidents and brought convictions of five union officials — many union members don't trust the leadership and likely won't want to return to work until they've gotten a chance to vote on the deal themselves.

In August, the FBI raided the suburban Detroit home of UAW President Gary Jones. He has not been charged and has not commented on the raid. Earlier this month, Jones' successor as union regional director in Missouri was charged in a $600,000 embezzlement scheme, and another UAW official pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from union vendors. Eight other people — including five UAW officials — have been convicted over the past two years of looting a jointly run Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center for blue-collar workers. Another official was charged in September.

There's also no guarantee that the first contract deal with GM will pass. Some workers on the picket lines said they may not vote for the first offer.

"We're not just going to take the first thing that they give us," worker Tina Black said in September from the picket line at an engine and transmission plant in Romulus, Michigan, near Detroit's main airport.

But Louis Rocha, president of a UAW local in Orion Township, Michigan, said recently that union bargainers have taken strong positions against the company. "I think we're going to be OK," he said of the ratification vote.

The strike had shut down 33 GM manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S. It was the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007 that had little impact on the company.

“We are extremely grateful to the thousands of Americans who donated goods and helped our striking workers and their families. As we await the Council’s decision, please know that the outpouring of community and national support will be etched in the memories of all of us at the UAW for years to come,” Dittes said.

UAW President Gary Jones said the solidarity demonstrated by the union members during the strike is what the union is all about.

“Our more than 48,000 members standing their ground have captured the hearts and minds of people across this country. I could not be prouder of our brothers and sisters, our National Negotiators, and the National Council as they continue to fight one day longer to secure the best deal for our members,” Jones said.

At the Oct. 17 meeting, the council will decided if the strike will continue until ratification concludes or to stop the strike at the time of the council's approval of the agreement.

CLICK HERE for the full statement from the UAW

“We can confirm the UAW’s statement regarding a proposed tentative agreement. Additional details will be provided at the appropriate time," GM said in a statement on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

On Oct. 14, the Flint City Council adopted a resolution in support of GM/UAW workers. You can find that resolution here.

“A proposed tentative agreement between General Motors and the UAW is a positive step forward. I respect the hardworking men and women of the United Auto Workers, who will make the final decision on whether or not to ratify their contract. Workers deserve a fair shake from GM that includes good wages, strong health care, job security and a commitment from the company to make their vehicles in America," Congressman Dan Kildee said in a statement on Oct. 16.

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich released the following statement:

“It has been a grueling month for striking UAW workers, but this tentative agreement shows that speaking up together for better pay and benefits, and fairer treatment on the job, is worth it. The UAW workers I have spoken with in Genesee County are eager to get back to work building the world’s best heavy-duty trucks under a fair contract that reflects their skills and hard work.”

Copyright 2019 Associated Press/WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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