Union Says G.M. Strike Will Go On Until Workers Vote on Deal


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DETROIT — Leaders of union locals voted Thursday to approve a tentative contract agreement with General Motors, but said a strike against the automaker would continue until workers voted to ratify the deal.

After a lengthy meeting in Detroit, the group said voting by the 49,000 members of the United Automobile Workers at G.M. plants would begin on Saturday and be completed within a week.

The walkout, now a month old, is the longest against General Motors in half a century.

According to a summary posted online by the union, the four-year deal reached Wednesday includes wage increases and a formula for allowing temporary workers to become full-time employees.

It would also keep open the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which G.M. had said it would close.

The tentative agreement does not reverse plans for three plants where production has ceased, including one in Lordstown, Ohio, though it provides retirement incentives for workers displaced there.

G.M. has promised to invest $7.7 billion in its manufacturing operations in the United States over the next four years, and another $1.3 billion in ventures with partners, saying those moves would create or preserve 9,000 jobs. But the deal includes no specific promises to expand domestic production or to move manufacturing to the United States from Mexico, both of which were goals of the union going into the negotiations.

If the contract is ratified, each full-fledged U.A.W. worker will receive a signing bonus of $11,000, a 3 percent wage increase in the second and fourth years of the contract, and a 4 percent lump sum in the first and third years. Temporary workers get a signing bonus of $4,500, the same wage increases as full-time workers, and the possibility of becoming permanent employees within three years.

The deal also eliminates a $12,000 cap on annual profit-sharing payouts, which could have a significant upside if G.M. continues to be as profitable as it has been in recent years.

Health care benefits are unchanged, with workers paying about 3 percent of the cost.

When it announced the tentative accord on Wednesday, the U.A.W. said it had “achieved major wins.” But ratification is not a foregone conclusion. The last time the union negotiated a contract with G.M., in 2015, approval was delayed for a month in part because the automaker’s skilled-trades workers rejected the terms.

A rejection of the proposed contract would be a rebuke for the U.A.W. president, Gary Jones, and his negotiating team.

“If the rank-and-file vote down an agreement their leaders send them, they also are voting down the leaders,” said Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan who follows the auto industry. “Workers may ask whether it was worth being out of work a month to get a deal that could be close to what they would have gotten with no strike and no loss of pay.”

There were signs of dissent from union members outside the Renaissance Center office complex, where G.M. is headquartered and the contract negotiations took place. As the roughly 200 union officials who will vote on the proposed contract arrived for the meeting, they were greeted by about 30 workers from the Lordstown plant in red T-shirts shouting, “Vote no!”

“If we don’t have product in Lordstown, we want them to vote no on this contract,” said Anthony Naples, a father of five who worked for 25 years at the Lordstown plant. “Now our jobs are going away. They have to figure out a way to get product in the U.S.”

One of the union’s main objectives was getting G.M. to reopen the car factory in Lordstown, a goal that President Trump endorsed. But there is no indication that the matter was ever on the table in the contract talks. G.M. idled that plant, and others in Baltimore and in Warren, Mich., as part of a cost-cutting effort that eliminated 2,800 factory jobs and thousands of white-collar positions.

In a statement on Thursday, General Motors said it was looking into building a battery factory near Lordstown that would employ about 1,000 workers. The plant would be built with a partner and would be unionized, but under a separate contract.

An electric-truck company that hopes to purchase the Lordstown plant from G.M. would employ about 400 production workers, the automaker said.

The company has not indicated that displaced workers from its Lordstown plant would be given preference in hiring at either operation.

G.M. reaffirmed a plan announced in May to invest $700 million in three existing plants in Ohio — in Parma, Toledo, and the Dayton area — with an expected net gain of 450 jobs.

“G.M. is committed to future investment and job growth in Ohio,” the company said.

If the G.M. contract is ratified, the U.A.W. will turn its focus to Ford Motor or Fiat Chrysler. Contracts with those manufacturers expired on Sept. 14, but workers continued reporting to assembly lines while the union negotiated with G.M.


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