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GM strike, day 35: Meetings start as UAW members mull ratification vote

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Members of the United Automobile Workers continued to strike against General Motors Co. Sunday, now the 35th day of a national strike against the automaker. But the next week could be the most pivotal week yet for strikers.

UAW officials decided Thursday to present a proposed tentative agreement to striking members for a vote. The UAW had started educating members on the agreement Saturday. Votes are due Friday at 4 p.m.

The vote is causing tension among members. Factory workers had mixed messaged last week. Some were unhappy with a contract they said didn't address issues such as job security. Others said they wanted the raises and hefty bonuses attached to the contract. 

A member of UAW Local 1005 gives a thumbs up to drivers outside GM Parma plant on Brookpark Road on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Parma, Ohio. Bargainers for General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative contract deal on Wednesday that could end a monthlong strike that brought the company's U.S. factories to a standstill. (Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer via AP)

The new four-year deal with GM promises permanent jobs for temporary employees, record ratification bonuses and the elimination of a $12,000 cap on profit sharing. It also promises an $11,000 bonus if members ratify the contract, which would effectively more than eliminate the financial losses members took on due to the strike. Temporary workers would receive a bonus of $4,500 upon ratification.

Facebook pages dedicated to contract discussions for GM workers gave no clear indication on how members would vote. Some posts said the contract was too beneficial to GM. Others said it was a good deal. Many just encourage members to vote.

A majority vote by membership is needed to ratify the contract.

The proposed contract would give 3% base-wage increases in the second and fourth years of the contract and would pay 4% lump-sum bonuses in the first and third years. It also allows GM to close three plants: Baltimore Operations in Maryland, Lordstown Assembly in northeast Ohio and Warren Transmission in southeast Michigan.

GM is pledging to invest $7.7 billion in the U.S., including $3 billion at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where the automaker plans to build electric trucks and vans. Detroit-Hamtramck was on the list to be idled like the three other plants.

Meanwhile, UAW leaders representing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ford Motor Co. on Friday said their subcommittees will continue to meet until UAW President Gary Jones chooses the next company with which to bargain after GM sets the pattern.

The new contract won't be easy to get members to ratify, experts said. In 2015, FCA-UAW members voted down the first tentative agreement presented to them only to receive what they felt was a sweeter deal the second time around. That set a new and strange precedent for automakers in the 2019 negotiations; members might use that tactic to try to get a better deal.

Some GM-UAW members have said they plan to vote no on the first contract presented to them, regardless of what it contains. Others told The Detroit News the tentative agreement is appealing if only for the dollar amounts attached to it.

Dawn Hamilton, 36, of Redford Township said she's a no. She say said the contract “has more holes than Swiss cheese.” She has been a part-time temporary employee in machining at the Romulus Powertrain Plant for nearly two years.

Meantime, others were happy with the deal. 


Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau