UAW locals in Flint, Bay City support GM deal – The Detroit News
United Auto Worker members at General Motors Co. plants continued to cast ballots Monday on a tentative agreement that so far has seen mixed support from rank-and-file members, leading to a push in communication from local union officials on why members should support the deal.
Several thousand workers at GM’s Flint Assembly Plant, Flint Metal Center, Toledo Transmission and Arlington (Texas) Assembly Plant, among others, were scheduled to vote Monday. Some voting — including Arlington and Orion — will trickle into Tuesday. Voting at other plants is scheduled through at least Friday.
GM Bay City Powertrain UAW members strongly supported the agreement, with 74 percent voting “yes,” and 26 percent voting “no,” according to a post Monday evening on the UAW Local 362’s Facebook page. The plant has about 300 hourly workers.
An officer of UAW Local 659 on social media late Monday reported that 66 percent of production workers and 52 percent of skilled trades workers at four facilities in Flint supported the deal. The local represents more than 1,700 workers at the sites.
Official overall results from the UAW likely won’t be released until the weekend. The tentative agreement, if ratified nationally, would provide 52,600 UAW GM members a larger bonus than their 2011 contract, give raises for traditional and entry-level employees and would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers.
The surge in voting Monday comes after members of GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant, which has about 3,230 hourly employees who build the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu, voted against the agreement by a 2-to-1 margin in results released Saturday. GM’s Lansing Grand River Assembly members voted to support the deal, with 57 percent voting “yes.” The Lansing plant has about 1,570 employees.
UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who heads the GM department, held a conference call Saturday with UAW GM leaders from across the country, encouraging them to push out messages of support and voting for the agreement to members.
UAW Local 31 President Vicki S. Hale, whose local oversees Fairfax Assembly workers, wrote on Facebook that if the agreement fails nationwide, the union “will have no other choice than to strike. Strike is always the last resort and absolutely does not guarantee further gains.”
At Fairfax, 37 percent of production workers voted “yes” on the national agreement, while 63 percent voted “no.” The result among skilled trades workers was similar, with 34 percent “yes” and 66 percent “no.”
“If a strike becomes inevitable, the leadership team made it clear that funding for more concessions will come from the $1.9 billion in potential U.S. product allocation monies,” Hale wrote.
Hale, reached by phone Monday, said she believes the GM deal is “an absolutely wonderful contract,” though she supports the union’s democratic process.
Barry Campbell, UAW Local 598 shop chairman who served on the GM bargaining committee, posted a Facebook message Sunday evening, asking the local’s nearly 2,600 hourly employees to consider all parts of the agreement and to support it.
“GM had several demands, also your bargaining team had some very tough decisions to make to secure our investment for job security, and also to make economic gains for all members,” he wrote. “Was it everything we wanted? No, but I’m very confident we took GM to the edge with a long and tiring fight.”
Reaction to the contract was mixed Monday at UAW Local 598 in Flint, where Flint Assembly UAW members were casting their ballots.
“I don’t like it at all,” said Gabriel Luna, an entry-level, or tier-two Flint Truck Assembly worker, who voted “no” on the contract.
Luna said he thinks the contract will be ratified because it contained enough to appease veteran, tier-one workers. But he doesn’t like how it would take eight years for second-tier workers to move up to traditional workers’ pay, and wasn’t happy with what was offered to retirees.
He said the two-tier system has divided the plant. “I wish we would strike,” he said. “It would bring more unity.”
Corey Jones, 38, a tier-one worker at the same plant, voted in support of the contract. He said the deal “definitely has made progress” from prior contracts.
Down the street, at UAW Local 659, which represents workers at several Flint facilities, some veteran workers said they support the tentative deal. Toni Sims and Alex Ljiljak, both 66, are tier-one workers at GM’s Customer Care and Aftersales plant in Flint. They believe they are eligible for the $60,000 early retirement package, and if offered, plan to take it.
Both voted yes on the contract. “We deserve it,” said Sims, a Flint resident. “We put in the time. The (second tier) have to work their way up, too.”
Ljiljak said he’s grateful for the possible early retirement package. “When I saw they put in that extra money, I had the biggest smile on my face,” he said.
The tentative agreement was reached between the union and company late Oct. 25, avoiding a possible strike and approved Wednesday by the UAW National GM Council. The deal, which analysts say is costly to GM, includes an $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers; pay raises for veteran workers consisting of two 3 percent increases in the first and third years of the contract and two 4 percent lump-sum payments in years two and four. The pact would gradually end the pay gap between veteran and new hires, who could reach the top wage of about $29 an hour in eight years.
If ratified, GM will offer up to 4,000 eligible employees a $60,000 early retirement incentive and will invest $1.9 billion in U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs at a dozen plants.