UAW reaches tentative agreement with GM, touts major gains

UAW reaches tentative agreement with GM, touts ‘major gains’
Breana Noble, Kalea Hall and Daniel Howes, The Detroit NewsPublished 10:50 a.m. ET Oct. 16, 2019 | Updated 1:11 p.m. ET Oct. 16, 2019

The United Auto Workers has reached a proposed tentative agreement with General Motors Co. that represents “major gains,” the UAW said in a news release Wednesday morning.

The more than 48,000 GM-UAW employees, including 17,000 in Michigan, have been off the job for 31 days — the longest national strike against GM since 1970. About 200 local union leaders representing GM employees are expected to convene Thursday in Detroit for a national council meeting to vote on whether to send the tentative agreement to the UAW membership and when to end the strike.

The United Auto Workers has reached a proposed tentative agreement with General Motors Co. that represents “major gains,” the UAW said in a news release Wednesday morning.
The United Auto Workers has reached a proposed tentative agreement with General Motors Co. that represents “major gains,” the UAW said in a news release Wednesday morning. (Photo: Paul Sancya, AP)

“We can confirm the UAW’s statement regarding a proposed tentative agreement.,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said in a statement. “Additional details will be provided at the appropriate time.”

Two sources familiar with the situation said the agreement follows the broad contours of the proposals GM publicly detailed twice over the last month. It is expected to include at least $9 billion in new investment, ratification bonuses of more than $8,000 each, uncapped profit-sharing payouts and base-wage increases or lump-sum bonuses of more than 2% in each year of the proposed contract.

The agreement also is expected to confirm the wind-down of three plants identified last November for closure, the people said. Those plants include Lordstown Assembly in northeast Ohio, Baltimore Operations in Maryland and Warren Transmission in southeast Michigan. Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly would continue to operate, building a new electric truck.

In a letter to UAW members, Vice President Terry Dittes told UAW-GM members to continue picketing until after the national council meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Ambassador Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in the Renaissance Center. Then they will receive further instructions, he said.

“The number one priority of the national negotiation team has been to secure a strong and fair contract that our members deserve,” Dittes said in a statement. Out of respect for the members, the union said it would refrain from commenting on the agreement’s details until Thursday’s gathering.

Added UAW President Gary Jones: “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.”

Victor Felice, 55, donned a poncho and carried a “UAW on strike” sign in lieu of an umbrella outside the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

“It’s been tough on everybody here,” Felice said of the strike. “We’ve been five weeks without a check.” He said he was prepared for a strike, “but not for it to last this long.”

Job security, product allocation and decreasing an eight-year window for permanent new hires to reach the top of the pay scale were some of the final issues being hammered out, as well as the economics of the deal. Talks went into the late evening Tuesday.

The union and its members have said health care, wages, job security and securing a pathway for temporary workers to reach permanent seniority were some of their top priorities.

The council is expected to review all the details of the proposed tentative agreement and then vote on whether to send the deal to the membership, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at Ann Arbor’s Center for Automotive Research. The council also will vote on whether members will stay on strike until a new contract is ratified.

“It is more painful but maybe more prudent to continue the strike just in case it doesn’t ratify,” Dziczek said. “If there’s any thought at all that the members might not vote overwhelmingly in favor, it maintains their leverage if they stay out on strike while they consider the tentative agreement.”

It generally takes about two weeks for the local leaders to educate their membership on what’s in the agreement and for voting to take place in locals around the country, she said.

If the UAW’s GM national council members vote to recommend to send the proposed deal to the membership, they also will determine if the strike will end immediately or upon ratification by the members.

The tentative agreement comes after GM CEO Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss joined negotiators Tuesday morning at the bargaining table for the first time.

GM has lost more than $1.5 billion because of the strike, while thousands of affected workers in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Texas have lost more than $835 million, according to an updated report on Wednesday from East Lansing’s Anderson Economic Group. Anderson also estimated lost federal income and payroll tax revenue on wages alone totals $313 million and that Michigan has lost $18.5 million in income tax revenue.

Negotiators had made progress over the past weekend after a tumultuous press war the week prior. The automaker and UAW have been in talks since July. Discussions intensified when the two sides failed to reach a tentative agreement before the Sept. 14 contract deadline, and the union ordered a strike.

Since then, a number of proposals had been shot down. A proposal from the automaker on Oct. 7 included higher wages, secured the union’s health care benefits and gave temporary employees a path to permanent employment, GM said.

A counterproposal from the union included “all of your outstanding proposals that are at the main table and unsettled,” Dittes wrote in a letter to local union leaders Friday.

The UAW-GM strike isn’t the only walkout the union is overseeing as it works through the negotiation process with two other companies: Aramark Corp. and Mack Trucks Inc. The UAW’s 850 members employed by Aramark, which provides maintenance at five GM facilities — Hamtramck, Warren, Flint, Grand Blanc and Parma, Ohio — have been on strike since Sept. 15.

More than 3,600 UAW members employed by Mack Trucks walked off the job Sunday over issues including wage increases, job security, wage progression and health and safety.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

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