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The United Auto Workers at General Motors approved a contract Thursday that will usher in a new era of record wage increases and eliminate tiers that pay new workers less than those with experience.
The union vote tracker showed that more than 54 percent of the 35,000 UAW workers employed by General Motors voted in favor of the contract, with the final votes counted Thursday.
A General Motors spokesman said the company declined to comment until the union formally announces the results of the ratification process.
Over the past few days, workers at the five largest plants rejected the deal, as some workers at those plants were disappointed that it did not make more concessions, such as restoring pensions for retirees. This forces automakers to increase their contributions to 401(k) retirement accounts.
The agreements mark the largest compensation gains won by the union in decades, including a 25 percent increase in base pay over four and a half years.
Mark Robinson, a former economist and strategist for General Motors, said he was surprised that so many UAW members voted against “such a rich contract”, but he chalked it up to newly elected union president Shawn Fenn, who has publicly criticized the entire contract. Made very bold demands. Fight for what workers can win and set higher standards.
,[The union] Probably got a better deal than usual because the companies were not accustomed to Fenn’s tactics, but it came with the risk of raising members’ expectations,” Robinson said. “The close vote reflects exceptionally high expectations.”
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The contract comes after a long period when workers’ wages did not keep up with inflation, and when the union gave up some of its gains at the time of the Great Recession, when automakers struggled to survive. The union managed to win back many of those gains in the new deals, including restoring regular cost-of-living wage adjustments to compensate for inflation. It also eliminated pay levels that left new hires on lower pay scales.
Another reason for the challenging vote among GM workers is that it’s possible that leaders of the UAW local did not effectively sell the deal to union members, Robinson said. The split may reflect the fact that “there is no consensus within the UAW,” he said, noting that Fenn had defeated his predecessor in a runoff election only seven months earlier.
The deal appears to provide some protections for UAW workers in the industry’s transition to electric vehicles. Workers worry that the industry’s new battery and EV factories will lead to less wages and job security. The GM agreement includes language to include some of these new factories in the union’s master contracts with automakers.