Daily Hearld: 10 most fascinating local people of 2019
Opinion: 10 most fascinating local people of 2019
By James Bennett email@example.com
Posted Dec 28, 2019 at 10:35 AM
Updated Dec 28, 2019 at 4:35 PM
United Auto Workers Local 1853 members were warned more than 18 months in advance by their leadership.
Negotiations with General Motors on a collective bargaining agreement would be difficult. Save your money because you’ll need it.
The advice turned out more on target than anyone would have imagined.
Local UAW members who work for General Motors walked out at 10:59 p.m. Sept. 15 and were on strike for 40 days against the automaker. They made $200 a week in strike pay — later boosted to $250 — instead of their $1,200 a week on average.
Other UAW members employed by GM vendors, such as Ryder Supply Chain, Comprehensive Logistics, Faurecia, Magna and American Food & Vending, were laid off with no pay. They had to make it through the contentious strike with nothing more than their savings, determination and, in some cases, donations from local food banks.
More than 3,600 men and women were impacted, not to mention the hundreds of local businesses in southern Middle Tennessee who rely on GM-related wages to buy their goods and services.
GM has been running three shifts for the last year in Spring Hill, making Cadillacs XT5 and XT6 and the GMC Acadia. Some employees were in the plant 12 hours a day, six days a week.
The strike occurred amid a federal probe of national UAW leadership. With their jobs and prosperity at stake, the rank-and-file members refused to back down when the company temporarily cut off health-care benefits and locally obtained a restraining order against strikers, some of whom were arrested for disorderly conduct.
For their persistence, I’ve chosen members of UAW 1853 as No. 1 on my list of the top 10 most fascinating local people of 2019.
“It’s been a year of ups and downs,” UAW Chairman Mike Herron said. “We warned people for year and half or two years that we were expecting tough negotiations. They were very difficult.”
GM wanted the workers to pick up a share of health-care costs and allow it to hire more temporary workers. The union wanted job security, including commitments to build vehicles in America, and the health care to remain status quo. In the end, workers kept their health care and also negotiated the right to an unlimited year-end bonus — $1,000 for every billion in GM profitability — for the next four years.
UAW Local 1853 narrowly rejected the proposed agreement in their vote. It passed nationally and went into effect in October.
“It bodes very well for Spring Hill,” Herron said of the deal. “In this contract, there was investment for Spring Hill. We’re lucky that crossover vehicles, which we make in Spring Hill, are a hot sector of the market.”
Herron has been chairman for 18 years. He’s up for re-election in 2020 but has not said whether he will run again.
“It’s been a blessing of mine to represent people as chairman,” Herron said. “Leading a major enterprise like this is more than getting people a day off when we need it. It’s looking five years down the road for job security.”