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GM’s deal with UAW is coming down to a tense vote

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain, right, visits striking UAW Local 551 workers outside a Ford assembly center on Oct. 7 in Chicago.  (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune )
By David Welch Bloomberg

Employees at a General Motors Co. pickup truck plant in Indiana rejected the tentative labor agreement between the carmaker and the United Auto Workers by a wide margin while workers at a large facility in Texas approved it, setting up a tight vote on the final day to ratify a deal that gives record pay raises and ended a seven-week strike.

The tally from the Fort Wayne facility, where 61% of workers voted against it, adds to rejections at two other large GM plants this week.

The tentative agreement suffered similar defeats this week at the plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where GM makes the Cadillac XT5 and XT6 SUVs and Lyriq electric vehicle, and at a sport utility vehicle plant in Lansing, Michigan.

Meanwhile, the deal passed in another key ballot with the backing of about 60% of workers at GM’s Arlington, Texas, facility, according to data gathered by Bloomberg News.

That sets up a tense vote at the remaining plants before the deadline of 4 p.m. Thursday in Michigan.

Of the roughly 22,000 votes already tallied and published by the UAW online, just over 52% have approved the contract.

Those totals do not include some of the latest results.

GM has 46,000 union workers, but not all of them vote.

Union workers at Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV are voting more strongly in favor of their contracts. A UAW spokesman did not return messages seeking comment.

Workers at large plants – which include Fort Wayne, Arlington and factories in Toledo and Parma, Ohio – oppose the deal by 4,652 to 4,483, according to a tally conducted by Bloomberg.

That would mean about 51% of the workers who have voted are in favor of the deal; nine mostly small facilities are yet to be counted.

The official tally doesn’t include heavy losses in Lansing and Fort Wayne, where 2,000 of the plant’s 3,300 workers voting turned the deal down, citing too little money up front and not enough to enhance pensions, said Rich LeTourneau, shop chairman at Local 2208, which represents workers at the truck plant.

The deal was also rejected at an engine plant in Toledo and a pickup plant in Missouri. Pensions were also a sticking point at the Toledo and Arlington plants.

Tony Totty, president of UAW Local 14 at the Toledo engine plant, said that while workers got 25% raises, pension benefits were only improved by 9.4%, leading older workers to vote it down, he said.

“The deal is better for someone who doesn’t yet work here than it is for someone who worked here 30 years because there isn’t enough in the pensions,” Totty said in a phone interview.

In Arlington, the pension increase was also key for older workers, said Keith Crowell, shop committee chair for Local 276, which represents hourly employees there.

Workers of all seniority levels were hoping for retiree health-care plans, he said.

One bright spot for the deal: On Tuesday, 97% of 1,200 workers in the Ultium Cells LLC Ohio joint venture battery plant, which is co-owned with Korea’s LG Energy Solution, voted to approve the deal.

None of the tallies include Ultium.

The tentative agreement must be ratified to include those workers in the Master Agreement on which the vote is being held.