GM, Autoworkers Union Reach Tentative Agreement That Could Put End to Month-Long Strike

October 17, 2019 Updated: October 17, 2019

The United Auto Workers Union has reached a tentative agreement with General Motors (GM) which could bring an end to a nationwide strike that began over a month ago.

News of the tentative deal was announced by leaders of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union on Wednesday, a month after nearly 50,000 hourly workers began their strike on Sept. 16, which brought the automaker’s U.S. factories to a standstill.

Details of the four-year agreement have not yet been released, however GM has reportedly promised increased wages of of 3 percent to 4 percent, lump-sum payments, access to premium health insurance at little cost to employees, promises of new products for many U.S. factories, and chances for temporary workers to enter full-time employment.

It comes after initial talks which sparked the strike in which GM said it planned to cut labor costs at its factories, which are about $13 per hour higher than at foreign automakers in the United States. Workers who walked out of their jobs last month said they wanted a bigger share of GM’s profits and better job security.

Workers are likely to strike for at least another few days, until union committees decide whether to proceed with the deal. If this is successful, the union workers must vote on it.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement: “The number one priority of the national negotiation team has been to secure a strong and fair contract that our members deserve.”

General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and United Auto Workers union Vice President Terry Dittes at the GM Orion Assembly Plant in Lake Orion, Michigan, on March 22, 2019. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Dittes said the union’s bargaining committee recommends that the GM National Council vote favorably on putting the tentative agreement up for a ratification vote, reported the Los Angeles Times.

He added he is refraining from divulging details until union committee members vote on whether to approve the agreement during a private meeting on Oct. 17 in Detroit. Whether workers will return to work of remain on picket lines while a decision is being made will also be decided by local leaders.

Now in its fifth week, the strike has cost the company an estimated $2 billion, and could last another two weeks during a ratification vote, and a week at best if fast-tracked. This could cost the company another half a billion, reported Bloomberg, citing calculations made by Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy.

The strike immediately brought GM’s U.S. factories to a halt, and within a week started to hamper production in Mexico and Canada. Analysts at KeyBanc investment services estimated the stoppage cut GM vehicle production by 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles.

UAW on strike
General Motors assembly workers picket outside the General Motors Bowling Green plant during the United Auto Workers national strike in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Oct. 10, 2019. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Workers, on the other hand, lost north of $3,000 each on average, the difference between their base wages and $250 per week in strike pay from the union.

“It’s nice to see there’s a deal, but without knowing the details I’m a little skeptical because we don’t know the highlights or the lowlights,” worker Nick Kuhlman told AP.

The strike had shut down 33 GM manufacturing plants in nine states across the United States, and also took down factories in Canada and Mexico. It was the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007, and the longest since a 54-day strike in Flint, Michigan, in 1998 that also halted most of GM’s production.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.