The longest auto workers’ strike in 50 years is officially over.
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General Motors employees voted overwhelmingly in favor of a deal struck by the United Auto Workers union and company executives. Nearly 48,000 workers who were on strike will return to work on Saturday.
The vote ends a painful work stoppage that has lasted six weeks, costing GM nearly $2 billion in lost production and employees nearly $1 billion in lost wages.
“Our members not only joined together in solidarity but felt the support of their whole community throughout this important stand,” Terry Dittes, the lead UAW negotiator at GM, said in a statement.
The final deal isn’t terrible for workers, but it’s hardly a victory. In fact, the tentative four-year contract would give striking workers four small wins and one major loss.
“This is not a slam dunk by any means,” Art Wheaton, a labor relations professor at Cornell University, told me earlier this week. “No one is going to be running back to work excited about what they got. But it’s something you can live with.”
The strike surfaced a decade of employee frustration with the company, which severely cut back benefits and pay for workers during the Great Recession. Employees felt jilted once the automaker began profiting handsomely. The new deal does little to change that dynamic but it does make some progress.
Four small wins for workers
- Pay raises: Workers are guaranteed a 3 percent pay raise and 4 percent lump sum increase in alternating years. That’s not great, considering that employees got the same thing last time they negotiated a contract in 2015, without going on strike. One big difference is that GM agreed to lift the $12,000 cap on profit-sharing, so there’s no limit to the cut workers can get from GM’s profits. Right now, they each get $1,000 for every $1 billion the company earns.
- Factory investments: The Detroit-Hamtramck factory was one of four slated for closure before the strike began. It will now stay open, and GM will build electric trucks and vans there. That’s a $3 billion investment in 2,225 jobs. The company will also invest $1 billion in two other factories — one in Tennessee and another in Michigan — to build mid-size SUVs.
- Temps and transitional workers: There is now a process for temporary workers to become permanent employees after three years on the job and for newer hires to earn the full pay rate in four years instead of eight. That top wage rate was increased from about $30 to $32 per hour.
- Health care costs remain the same: The cost of workers’ health care plans, among the lowest in the nation, was left untouched. The company had announced plans to increase premiums but backed down during the strike.
Permanent workers will also get an $11,000 signing bonus and temporary workers will get $4,500. This isn’t really a win for workers. It basically covers the wages they lost during the strike.
For more information, view Source: The GM strike is officially over. Here’s what workers won and lost. – Vox