Despite reports that the United Auto Workers union reached an agreement with General Motors, the scene in front of the GM assembly plant in Arlington on Monday morning looked similar to one the previous week, when a strike was announced at the plant.
A handful of workers stood with blue “UAW on strike” signs outside the plant’s various gates. Drivers honked as they sped by. The union members traded the umbrellas they held on the day of the strike’s start for heavy coats and gloves. Some stood next to portable heaters. And they waited for the official announcement of a tentative agreement, so they could return to work.
Now, UAW president Shawn Fain announced the end of the stand up strike with the tentative contract with General Motors.
The new contract is similar to those offered by Ford and Stellantis: A 25% increase in base wages through April 2028 and cost of living adjustments of more than $42 an hour, according to the UAW release.
GM’s chair and CEO, Mary Barra, said in a statement that the company is pleased to reach a tentative agreement.
“We are looking forward to having everyone back to work across all of our operations, delivering great products for our customers, and winning as one team,” Barra said.
GM is the last of the affected automakers in Detroit to come up with a tentative agreement, signaling the end of strikes by thousands of workers at plants across the country. That includes more than 5,000 at the GM Arlington assembly plant and about 120 at a GM parts distribution center outside of Fort Worth.
The union called a strike at one of GM’s largest plants, in Spring Hill, Tennessee, on Oct. 29 to increase pressure on the company to reach a deal.
Daniel Wagner, a GM team leader in the materials department, stood on the picket line Monday across from the GM Arlington assembly plant, having started his four-hour strike shift at 9:30 a.m. He hadn’t heard details from the GM tentative agreement yet but said he looked over the main points of the Ford and Stellantis tentative agreements. He said it’s too soon to say whether he would vote yes to a contract.
“From what I saw from the Ford contract, it all looks good,” Wagner said. “But I think we can get more out of GM, because they’ve been the most profitable company.”
In particular, Wagner is hoping for better work-life balance and improved retirement benefits. Wagner, who has worked for GM for 27 years, said he’s tired of working six-day weeks.
“I’ve watched people lose their families because they were in here all the time,” he said.
Ford was the first to reach a tentative agreement, on Oct. 26, ending strikes at that company’s plants. Labor experts told the Fort Worth Report at the time that other automakers would shortly follow Ford with similar terms.
Stellantis arrived at a tentative agreement Oct. 28, according to a UAW announcement.
Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, previously told the Fort Worth Report that Ford’s tentative contract could provide a picture of what GM’s and Stellantis’ proposals would look like.
“Ford set the pattern,” Wheaton said. “If they can get their contract ratified, then I would assume that all three Detroit companies, Stellantis, GM and Ford, will have very similar contract language.”
Some of the points in Ford’s contract include:
- A 25% wage increase over four years.
- Restoring cost-of-living benefits.
- Improvements to retirement.
- A right to strike over plant closures.
- A three-year wage progression.
The strikes, which have been expanding since Sept. 15, have led to an estimated $9.3 billion in economic losses and millions lost for the companies involved. Paul Jacobson, GM executive vice president and chief financial officer, reported the company lost $200 million from the strike during the third quarter and an additional $600 million so far in the fourth quarter. While GM reported $44.1 billion in revenue in its third quarter, a 5.4% increase, its profits dipped by 7%, or $3.1 billion.
The UAW’s Fain has cited record profits by the automakers as grounds for the demands in the contracts. Meanwhile, GM officials have argued that increasing wages too high will affect the company’s ability to remain competitive with other automakers.
“We need profits to invest in our future,” Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing and sustainability, said in a video posted Oct. 19.
GM announced in June that it is investing $500 million in the Arlington assembly plant for upgrades to produce the company’s next SUVs.
Canice Telfare, a GM employee who works in the body shop department of the Arlington assembly plant, said she hopes the tentative agreement makes up for what employees lost when the company went bankrupt in 2009. Telfare, who has worked at the company for 24 years and is nearing retirement, also hopes for the return of pensions.
“The highlights are always the best points of the contract,” Telfare said. “So I will have to read over the complete, tentative agreement before I can make an honest decision.”
Arlington’s mayor, Jim Ross, said he feels comfortable that GM and UAW will find common ground.
“I’m happy to hear it,” Ross said. “I know that there’s a lot of workers happy to get back to work. And GM is happy to be putting out SUVs on the assembly lines.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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