U.S. union workers at General Motors appear to have voted down tentative contract deal

A tentative contract agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union appears to be headed for defeat.

The union hasn’t posted final vote totals yet, but workers at five large factories who finished voting in the past few days have turned down the four year and eight month deal by fairly large margins.

The vote tracker on the UAW’s website shows the deal winning by 686 votes. But those totals do not include votes from GM assembly plants in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Wentzville, Missouri; Lansing Delta Township and Lansing Grand River in Michigan, and a powertrain plant in Toledo, Ohio, which all voted against the deal, according to local union officials.

In most cases, the vote tallies ranged from 55 per cent to around 60 per cent against the contract.

Workers were awaiting totals from a large assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, but many said they expect the contract to be voted down.

It wasn’t clear what would happen next, but local union officials don’t expect an immediate walkout after the final totals are known.

Meantime, UAW workers belonging to General Motors’ Spring Hill plant in Tennessee voted against a proposed contract, even as the union’s president said in Washington on Tuesday that the deal remains on track for approval.

Shawn Fain told reporters on Capitol Hill that early voting was trending positive.

“Early results are very favourable,” he said.

Each facility’s union local must vote on the tentative deal, but only the overall combined vote count determines the outcome.

Of the total votes cast at Spring Hill, 68 per cent were against the agreement.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a United Auto Workers (UAW) strike outside the General Motors Co. (GM) plant in Romulus, Michigan,
A demonstrator holds a sign during a United Auto Workers (UAW) strike outside the General Motors Co. (GM) plant in Romulus, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Brittany Greeson/Bloomberg)

Voting continues at Ford, where the deal is passing with 66.1 per cent voting in favour so far with only a few large factories still counting.

The contract was passing overwhelmingly in early voting at Jeep maker Stellantis. The union’s vote tracker shows that 79.7 per cent voted in favour with many large factories yet to finish.

Local union officials say longtime workers were unhappy that they didn’t get larger pay raises like newer workers, and they wanted a larger pension increase.

Newer hires wanted a defined benefit pension plan instead of the defined contribution plan that they now receive.

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Tony Totty, president of the union local at the Toledo power train plant, said the environment is right to seek more from the company.

“We need to take advantage of the moment,” he said.

“Who knows what the next environment will be for national agreements. The company never has a problem telling us we need to take concessions in bad economic times. Why should we not get the best economic agreement in good economic times?”

Thousands of UAW members joined picket lines in targeted strikes against Detroit automakers over a six-week stretch before tentative deals were reached late last month.

Rather than striking at one company, the union targeted individual plants at all three automakers.

At its peak last month about 46,000 of the union’s 146,000 workers at the Detroit companies were walking picket lines.

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