UAW strike ends with ratified agreement, but 3 GM plants close
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
It had been more than a decade since unionized General Motors (GM) workers joined forces to strike for higher pay, protected benefits, temp worker opportunities, and improved schedule and advancement conditions.
This latest strike produced mixed results that were highly dependent on workers’ locations. While outsourcing and plant downsizing keep manufacturing jobs below optimal national levels, GM workers will largely enjoy improvements in labor conditions.
On Oct. 25, the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) achieved a new, four-year contract with General Motors (GM) in a vote of 57% to 43 %. During this time, UAW also ratified an Aramark janitorial contract at five GM Ohio and Michigan locations.
The new GM contract keeps Detroit’s Hamtramck plant open, with 2,225 jobs and a $3 billion investment for electric vehicle production. Billions will be invested in a Tennessee location and another Michigan plant.
However, three plant closures and Mexico manufacturing are bad news for U.S. manufacturing. September saw a 1.1% durable goods orders production downturn. This is the largest decline in four months.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) motto, “An injury to one is an injury to all,” suggests the somber tone of GM-UAW contract finalization, as workers return to jobs in a clearly downsized company. Lordstown, Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and Baltimore jobs were traded for higher wages and salaries, better temp hire opportunities and schedules, improved profit sharing, and status quo health benefits at other GM plant locations.
Workers at closed facilities formed a large bulk of those voting down the current contract. Such is the bargaining climate these days, as wealth-gaining companies force workers to sacrifice in some areas to gain in others — an injury to all in the long run.
The new contract may be a template for a “pattern bargaining” arrangement with the other two of Detroit’s big three automakers — Fiat Chrysler and Ford, where UAW bargaining has now commenced. Since the GM strike cost the company $45 million per day, losing 300,000 vehicles, it’s possible other UAW negotiations will move faster.
What have GM workers gained in numbers? There’s two different summaries for salaried and hourly workers. Hourly workers have endured unequal conditions since many are temporary workers. One victory here is the eradication of the two-tiered employment system — although some argue their job assignment maintains a third tier due to continued pay gaps. Under the new contract, temp workers can achieve full-time, permanent seniority positions with increased time off. This had been a major sticking point in negotiations.
There’s an $11,000 ratification bonus for hourly senior employees and $4,500 for temp workers. Regarding profit-sharing, “All profits the company earns in North America will generate payments to members, based on the current $1,000 per $1 billion formula, with no limits.”
Also, by 2023, many permanent full-time hourly workers can make a guaranteed $32.32 an hour. While this is a significant wage increase, it’s a $62,000 annual income — a small fraction of what GM CEO Mary Barra banks annually.
Hourly and salaried contracts share similar provisions: stabilized healthcare costs, an $11,000 per member signing bonus, performance bonuses, two 3% annual raises and two 4% lump-sum payments.
Job security remains dubious as Mexico outsourcing — which produced 834,414 GM vehicles last year — will still occur, as if three U.S. plant closures weren’t enough.
Elsewhere in the national labor picture, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) began striking on Oct. 17. Better pay, benefits and optimized classroom conditions for improved teacher and student performance top the list here.
For 25,000 Chicago teachers and 300,000 students, this means demanding more support staff and smaller class sizes. The CTU culture also impressively promotes a broad-based progressive social justice focus that connects life inside and outside classrooms.
The CTU knows schools need empowered staff, like nurses and counselors. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, representing special education assistants, security guards, bus aides, and other staff, have joined the CTU strike due to their own stalled contract.
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