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GM autoworkers' contract appears likely to pass over many workers' objections

General Motors' Wentzville Assembly Plant photographed on September 15, 2023 in Wentzville, Missouri.
Michael B. Thomas
/
Getty Images
General Motors' Wentzville Assembly Plant photographed on September 15, 2023 in Wentzville, Missouri.

Updated November 15, 2023 at 2:58 PM ET

When United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain announced on October 30 that the union had reached a contract deal with General Motors, he praised the workers for their relentless fight.

"The result is one of the most stunning contract victories since the sit-down strikes in the 1930s," Fain told workers.

But not all rank-and-file workers were convinced.

Their dissatisfaction has been on full display as they've gone to their union halls to vote on whether to ratify the deal — a deal that includes raises of 25%, cost-of-living allowances tied to inflation, increased retirement contributions and other improvements.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a large minority of GM workers had voted no on the record contracts, including a majority at some of the automaker's largest plants: Flint Assembly in Michigan, Spring Hill Manufacturing in Tennessee, Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, and Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana.

Workers at GM's Arlington Assembly plant, another sizeable plant, went the other way, with more than 60% voting in favor of the deal.

Results from a handful of GM facilities are still pending.

Ford workers more positive on contract; voting continues at Stellantis

At Ford, 66% of workers had voted in favor of a similar deal as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a vote tracker on the UAW's website, though 55% of workers at Ford's largest plant, its Kentucky Truck Plant, voted no.

"There were a lot of gains," says Kentucky Truck Plant worker Jenn Thompson, who voted no. "But there were just a few things that I would have liked to have seen in this contract that didn't make it," including retiree health care.

Voting at Stellantis was last to get underway. Workers at Stellantis' Toledo Assembly Complex, which builds Jeeps, are voting today, with many more votes still to come.

A majority of UAW workers at each company must vote yes before a deal is ratified. It's possible that one carmaker's contract could be ratified while another is rejected. Fain has repeatedly told workers that they are the highest authority in the union.

"We send this contract to you because we know it breaks records. We know it will change lives. But what happens next is up to you all," Fain told workers after a deal was struck at Ford.

If a contract is voted down, negotiators return to the bargaining table. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but outcomes are uncertain. Earlier this fall, union workers at Mack Trucks rejected a tentative agreement and went out on strike. According to a UAW memo, the company rejected the union's proposals and declared an impasse. Workers are voting again this week on essentially the same contract, which Mack Trucks called its last, best and final offer.

In 2021, UAW workers at John Deere twice voted down contracts their union leadership brought to them before finally approving an enhanced deal.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.