The longest US automobile strike in 25 Years is almost over. Maybe.
The United Auto Workers union made an announcement Monday night about a tentative contract with General Motors. The announcements were similar to those made Saturday night by Stellantis and last week at Ford.
Picket lines have come down, and nearly 50,000 UAW workers who were on strike at some point or another will soon be back to work. There is still the possibility that a strike could re-emerge at one or several automakers in the coming weeks. The final decision on the agreements rests with the 145,000 employees at the three automakers.
When a union strikes and then negotiates a tentative agreement, workers typically don't go back to work until ratification is complete. The union forced workers at Ford to start returning to work to increase pressure on GM Stellantis and GM to match the Ford agreement.
The union, after Stellantis accepted the deal on Saturday night, announced its striking members would return to work. It also announced that nearly 4,000 workers at a GM factory in Spring Hill in Tennessee would join the strikes in order to increase pressure on GM in order to help it reach a final agreement.
The union has not yet explained why 18,000 of its strikers have returned to work, before the ratification procedure is completed. It would have been hard to keep them off the job while Ford and Stellantis strikers returned to work, earning their regular paychecks.
This is one of the few times the union has only had a small number of workers go on strike at a particular company, and not all of its members. It would have been hard to keep strikers at the picket line if most UAW workers continued to work.
If the members of any company vote against the strike, it is likely that the strike will resume quickly at the company. Perhaps this time, all the employees may go on strike.
Workers are strongly encouraged to accept the agreements because of financial incentives. All three agreements give a 11% immediate raise to the majority of workers who earn the highest pay scale, which is about $32 per hour. Then, four additional raises, totaling 14%, are given before the contract ends in April 2028.
The union would also be able to return the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that it had given up in 2007, when all three automakers were struggling with cash, and GM, Stellantis predecessor Chrysler, and GM were on their way towards bankruptcy and a federal bailout. COLA combined with the guaranteed increases in pay will likely raise the top salary by more than 30% during the term of the contract.
Some senior union members, who do not receive top-paying jobs, could see their salaries increase between 20% and 46%. Some workers who are paid below the top pay level will receive immediate increases of up to 88%.
The union leadership has been able to reach agreements with the rank-and-file, but they have consistently rejected them. Mack Trucks' members, who voted to reject an 11th-hour deal reached a week before on October 8, was the most recent example.
People watching the presentation posted comments as UAW President Shawn Fain explained the details of Ford's deal in a Facebook Live session on Sunday night. Most of these comments were critical and encouraged people to vote against the deal.
Many critics of the deal did not give any reasons for their opposition. They only encouraged people to vote against it. Others complained that senior workers weren't getting the same benefits from the contract than more recent hires. Some objected that the union did not achieve all of its demands. This included a traditional pension for those hired after 2007, and a failure to restore retiree health coverage to those more recently hired.
Posters' criticism is not necessarily representative of the feelings of average members. Social media was full of criticism of the Teamsters' deal with UPS reached this summer. The deal passed with 86% of those voting in favor.
Fain said in his remarks at the weekend that members are the ultimate authority within the union. He was clearly trying to sell the agreements reached at Ford, Stellantis and telling the members that they had achieved things many people believed the union would not be able to achieve at the bargaining tables.