GM Workers Staying on Strike as Members Vote on New Contract

Demonstrators hold signs during a UAW strike outside the GM plant in Romulus, Michigan on Oct. 4. 

Photographer: Brittany Greeson/Bloomberg

United Auto Workers
will continue striking against
General Motors Co.
until a tentative deal is ratified by members, extending its walkout for at least another week.

Voting on the proposed contract will begin Oct. 19 and ballots will be due by Oct. 25, Brian Rothenberg, the UAW’s spokesman, said during a press conference Thursday in Detroit. The strike began Sept. 16 and has cost GM an estimated
$2 billion

GM shares fell 0.5% to $36.02 in late trading. The stock is down about 7% since the strike began.

The walkout has already had a profound effect on the U.S. economy, contributing to the steepest drop in U.S. factory production in
five months
. By deciding to stay on strike until ratification, the union may be acknowledging the challenge it will have convincing the rank-and-file it’s squeezed all the concessions it possibly can out of the company.

Keeping workers on the picket line “is an indication they don’t feel like it’s a slam dunk,” said Arthur Wheaton, director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University. “They better get it out to a vote because it’s a nightmare if it gets voted down.”

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After reaching a tentative
on Wednesday, the UAW released
of the accord on Thursday. While it notably
doesn’t throw a lifeline
to GM’s Lordstown assembly plant in Ohio, the automaker is offering to pay $11,000 ratification bonuses to senior workers. It’s also dangling $60,000 early retirement buyouts for up to 2,060 employees and providing lump-sum payouts and annual raises that will take hourly production wages up to $32.32 an hour by 2023.

Every day the strike continues costs GM about $100 million of profit, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy wrote in a report this week.

“We encourage the UAW to move as quickly as possible through the ratification process, so we can resume operations and get back to producing vehicles for our customers,” GM said in a statement.

The union’s local presidents and chairmen — roughly 200 officials — met Thursday after being called to Detroit earlier this week when the two sides began to make major progress hammering out a new contract.

‘Generous’ Deal

The proposed agreement shortens the length of time temporary employees need to work before converting to permanent status, a major sticking point in the negotiations. Workers will get 3% wage increases in the second and fourth years of the contract, and 4% lump sums in the others.

“It’s certainly a generous economic deal,” said Art Schwartz, a former GM labor negotiator who is now a consultant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The one issue that could derail the deal is the automaker’s decision to follow through with closing three U.S. factories.

“The UAW kind of got everything the members wanted, except those three plants,” Schwartz said.

— With assistance by Keith Naughton

(Updates with late trading in third paragraph.)

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