GM's workforce ratifies new contract, ending longest strike in 50 years


Bill Jackson, of St. Louis, gives a thumbs up to drivers that wave or honk as United Auto Workers outside the GM Wentzville Assembly Center in Wentzville, Mo.,  Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. UAW workers have been on strike since Sept. 16, but have reached a tentative deal with GM today. Workers expressed cautious optimism, but will likely remain on the picket line until an official deal has been reached. (Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

  • GM’s 49,000 UAW-represented workers have ratified a new four-year contract.
  • The vote ends the longest strike against a major US automaker in 50 years.
  • The workforce secured low-cost healthcare, wager increases, a signing bonus, increased profit-sharing, and a quicker path to full-time status for temporary workers.
  • GM also confirmed that it would build an electric pickup truck at a Detroit plant that had been “unallocated,” and that it plans to build a new battery factory near an idled plant in Ohio.
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Late Friday, General Motors and the United Auto Workers announced that GM’s 49,000 workers at 55 facilities in the US had ratified a new, four-year labor contract.

The agreement comes after the longest strike against the automaker in decades. GM’s workforce walked off the job on September 16. The duration of the strike, the largest against the company since the 1970s, could have cost GM billions in lost revenue.

“We delivered a contract that recognizes our employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company, with a strong wage and benefit package and additional investment and job growth in our U.S. operations,” GM CEO Mary Barra said a statement.

Mary Barra

“GM is proud to provide good-paying jobs to tens of thousands of employees in America and to grow our substantial investment in the USAs one team, we can move forward and stay focused on our priorities of safety and building high-quality cars, trucks and crossovers for our customers.”

In its the UAW’s own statement, Vice President Terry Dittes said, “General Motors members have spoken.”

“We are all so incredibly proud of UAW-GM members who captured the hearts and minds of a nation. Their sacrifice and courageous stand addressed the two-tier wages structure and permanent temporary worker classification that has plagued working-class Americans.”

The UAW announced on Friday that the strike was officially over and that the workforce should return to the job according to GM’s directions.

Health care, wage increases, a signing bonus, profit-sharing, and a solution for temporary workers

FILE PHOTO: United Auto Workers (UAW) union President Gary Jones addresses UAW delegates at the 'Special Convention on Collective Bargaining' in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

GM summarized the new contract. It includes:

  • 3% wage increases or 4% lump-sum payments in each of the four years of the
  • Retention of … health care coverage, preserving the current 3% cost to
  • An $11,000 contract signing bonus for regular employees, and $4,500 for
    temporary employees.
  • Enhanced employee profit-sharing, including no cap on our employees’ ability to
    share in the company’s profits.
  • A clear path for temporary employees to transition to permanent employment after
    three years of service, beginning in January 2020 for eligible employees with
    accrued time.

GM also summarized  “planned investments of $7.7 billion,” including bringing a electric pickup to the previously “unallocated” Detroit-Hamtramck plant, $4 billion of investment in existing manufacturing, and the development of a new battery factory near an idled Lordstown, Ohio, plant that is being sold to an electric truck company Lordstown Motors.

The strike involved several testy exchanges between the GM and the UAW. 

Some UAW leaders, including President Gary Jones, are under federal investigation on allegations of corruption. This made the strike a risky move, but the union made the leap, anyway. 

After Friday’s news about the GM contract, the UAW announced it had selected Ford as the next US automaker for contract negotiations. The union engages in “pattern bargaining,” so its contract with GM should form a template for discussions with Ford.

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