General Motors and the UAW reached a proposed tentative agreement on a new contract Wednesday, the 31st day of a nationwide strike.
The autoworkers walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 16, launching the union's first nationwide strike in 12 years. Their four-year contract had expired at midnight Sept. 14.
Autoworkers were bitter about GM announcing plans in November 2018 to idle four U.S. plants and argued it was time for them to be rewarded after making concessions a decade ago to help the automaker rebound from bankruptcy.
During negotiations, it became evident that workers were adamant that temporary workers should get a better deal from GM. The union during the recession a decade ago agreed to expanded hiring of temps by GM, Ford and what then was Chrysler. Those workers are paid $15-$19 an hour with no profit sharing, little time off and no job protection.
The final days of negotiations focused on what the automaker would commit to build at U.S. plants over the four-year life of the new contract. The union pressed for internal combustion vehicle commitments even as GM says it is moving toward an electric future and continues low-cost Mexican production of SUVs and pickups for U.S. sale.
Key issues included:
- Temporary workers. GM wanted the ability to hire more temps to save costs and be able to quickly reduce the workforce in case of a market downturn. The UAW wanted to equalize pay for temps, profit sharing and a path to permanent employment. Similarly, it wanted to even out pay for workers hired after 2007, who start at $17 an hour and can reach $28 after eight years.
- Job security. That's code for commitments by automakers to invest in U.S. factories and commit to building vehicles here. Detroit automakers in contracts say, given solid market conditions, they will invest in UAW-represented sites and tie that spending to numbers of jobs created or retained.
- Health care. GM is self-insured and spends $900 million a year on hourly workers' care. UAW members pay just 3% of their costs, compared with 28% for the average U.S. worker. Autoworkers, who argue that their jobs are physically taxing and can lead to chronic injury early in life, won here, with GM agreeing to leave workers' costs unchanged.
- Pay. Autoworkers' pay has eroded 16% against inflation since 2010, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.