GM-UAW deal back on track for ratification after major plant approves pact

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United Auto Workers (UAW) members strike at a General Motors assembly plant that builds the U.S. automaker’s full-size sport utility vehicles, in another expansion of the strike in Arlington, Texas, October 24, 2023.
James Breeden | Reuters

DETROIT – Voting by United Auto Workers members is going down to the wire on a tentative deal with General Motors that ended roughly six weeks of labor strikes.

A majority of UAW members at several major GM plants voted against the pact in recent days, but approval Wednesday morning by a large SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, gave the deal a needed lifeline, with roughly 60% of production workers and 65% of skilled trades union workers voting in favor of the pact.

Prior to the end of voting at the Texas plant, the agreement appeared on pace for rejection with 18,580, or 40%, of GM’s 46,000 union employees voting against the deal.

Results from all of the automaker’s major plants were reported by local union chapters as of Wednesday morning, though many did not immediately disclose vote totals. Voting at smaller facilities are unknown or yet to be finalized by the union.

The UAW has not updated its vote tracker for GM to reflect Arlington or many of the major plants that voted against the deal as of Wednesday morning, including GM’s Corvette plant in Kentucky, a Buick and Chevrolet crossover plant in Michigan, and truck plants in Missouri and Indiana.

Excluding some those results, the agreement has 52% approval, according to the union.

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

A rejection of the deal, which was reached Oct. 30, would prolong a historically contentious round of negotiations between the UAW and Detroit automakers. Similar tentative agreements at Ford Motor and Stellantis have thus far received higher voter approvals among those automakers’ unionized workforces.

It’s become more common in recent years for UAW members to reject tentative agreements: Workers at Fiat Chrysler, now Stellantis, voted down a deal during talks in 2015, and Mack Trucks rejected a contract proposal last month.

If the GM deal is voted down, UAW President Shawn Fain and other union leaders will need to decide how to proceed and secure a better deal for GM’s union workers. They could reinitiate strikes against the automaker, attempt to reopen negotiations, or both.

All options are essentially back on the table for the union and automaker. The company could agree to reopen talks or it could follow what Mack Trucks has recently done and submit the prior offer with little to no changes as what’s known as a “last best and final offer” — likely sending it back for members to vote on.

The UAW reached tentative deals with each of the automakers individually, so each is voted on separately. They are not contingent on one another to be ratified.

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

But UAW members, especially veteran workers, have voiced disapproval for the deal, citing inflated expectations created by Fain, who called for and ultimately failed to secure a 32-hour workweek and better retirement benefits.

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

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

Fain touted the union contracts during events this past week with President Joe Biden and during a U.S. Senate committee hearing, as voting continued.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct that United Auto Workers members at General Motors’ SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, voted in favor of the tentative contract agreement.

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