GM workers optimistic about proposed UAW deal
General Motors Co. workers in Lansing are optimistic that a proposed tentative agreement reached late-Sunday between the automaker and United Auto Workers is as lucrative or more as a recently ratified deal with crosstown rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
Both first- and second-tier workers at the facility voiced confidence that UAW leaders have bargained a deal that not only rewards veteran workers for past sacrifices but satisfy future generations of workers to join the union.
“What I’m hearing is that it’s going to work out for us,” said Dan Hodge, a 20-year veteran worker. “It’s really for the next generation. That contract is going to set that next generation of GM workers up.”
Hodge, 53, of Lansing, said workers have seen or heard little about the pact reached with less than 20 minutes to spare before Sunday’s deadline.
Details of the deal are not expected to be released until UAW leadership with local chapters from across the country gather on Wednesday in Detroit. Rank-and-file workers will vote in the coming week or so, pending leadership support.
Mike Green, president of UAW Local 652, which represents workers at the Lansing facility, said it will ultimately be up to the membership to support or reject the deal.
“We’ll take a look at it,” he told The Detroit News. “GM, Chrysler and Ford are all different animals. Some of our wants and needs aren’t the same as theirs.”
GM’s proposed tentative agreement with the union came three days after the union announced the Detroit automaker as its next focus, following ratification of a second tentative agreement with Fiat Chrysler. A first deal was shot down by 65 percent of Fiat Chrysler workers.
Workers and industry insiders don’t expect GM’s voting to be as contentious as Fiat Chrysler’s. Ford Motor Co. continues to wait for its turn to finalize a tentative agreement.
Industry analysts expected the union to push for a richer deal for its 52,700 members than it did at Fiat Chrysler.
“Chrysler got a good deal, so I guess I’m happy because we’ll probably get a little better than them,” said Gail Henigan, a 56-year-old entry-level worker. “I’m excited. It’s definitely bringing the tier twos up to tier ones … if it’s the same.”
Fiat Chrysler’s deal includes an eight-year progression to top wages for entry-level workers; 6 percent wage increases and 8 percent lump-sum payments for veteran production workers over four years; and ratification bonuses of $4,000 for veteran workers and $3,000 for entry-level workers.
The union called Fiat Chrysler’s deal “one of the richest ever negotiated,” although it provides little job growth and will place some new hires on different pay progressions than current workers
Barb Daly, a 20-year union veteran who has worked at four plants, said she would be pleased if GM’s deal resembled Fiat Chrysler’s.
“They haven’t let us know a whole lot yet, but I think it’s going to be a really good contract,” she said. “I don’t even care about whether I get a raise. I’d just like to see second tier come up to where we’re at. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Daly’s concern for the second-tier workers was a main concern for many heading into the 2015 negotiations between the union and Detroit automakers. Since the two-tier system was implemented in 2007, workers have said it has divided factory floors.
“They do the same work,” Daly said. “They deserve the same pay.”
Appeasing second-tier workers was particularly important for Fiat Chrysler, which has a 45 percent entry-level workforce, the highest of the Detroit automakers. GM is at 22 percent. Ford Motor Co. is at 29 percent.
Many at the Lansing facility, where production of the 2016 Camaro began Monday, were relieved that negotiators were able to reach a deal before a union-imposed 11:59 p.m. Sunday deadline – avoiding a potential strike.
“I think, for all of us, there is some assurance that we didn’t have to get to the point of doing a strike,” said Lansing Regional Plant Manager Mike Trevorrow. “Historically, that is not good for either of us.”
UAW President Dennis Williams, in a statement late Sunday, said the proposed deal includes “stable long-term significant wage gains and job security commitments to UAW members now and in the future.”