By TIM ROWDEN
Wentzville, MO – Glenn Kage, president of United Auto Workers Local 2250, said phones in his office were ringing non-stop Friday, with members calling in to see when they would be going back to work at General Motors’ Wentzville Assembly Plant.
UAW members nationwide approved a new contract with GM last week, ending a 40-day strike against the auto maker.
The four-year contract will bring in-progression workers up to tier-one wages and create a pathway for temporary workers to get hired. It also includes retention of the union’s low health care costs, raises and bonuses that outpace current inflation, elimination of a $12,000 cap on profit-sharing payouts and a record $11,000 ratification bonus. Temporary workers will get a $4,500 bonus.
“The phones have been non-stop with members asking when they get to go back,” Kage said. “They’re excited to get back to work.”
Local 2250 represents 4,500 members at the Wentzville plant, 3,300 of whom voted on the contract.
Kage said 63.5 percent of production workers and 69.9 percent of skilled-trades workers voted to approve the contract.
“This contract is a big step in the right direction,” Kage said. “There were no concessions. Economic and incentive packages are great and $1.5 billion has been allocated to upgrade the Wentzville plant. That will provide a big economic boost, not only the City of Wentzville, but also for the building trades that will be doing that work.”
Kage said the planned upgrades include replacing the assembly plant’s paint shop and upgrading the plant’s body shop.
Nearly 49,000 UAW workers across the country went on strike Sept. 15, demanding fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing, job security and a path to permanent employment for temporary workers. Union members made deep sacrifices during the Great Recession to save the company from insolvency. GM has made record profits for four of the last five years, but rather than repaying the workers whose concessions helped keep the company afloat, the company pared its United States workforce, closed several plants and moved more work to Mexico.
The strike marked a line in the sand with workers demanding their share.
“We believe it’s a major victor, not just for the UAW but all of Organized Labor,” Kage said, adding that community support for the striking auto workers made it possible for them to hold the line.
“We would not have been successful were it not for the community,” Kage said. “We had barbers giving free haircuts. Local restaurants were dropping off food. It was unbelievable. Marco’s Pizza dropped off pizzas every chance they got. Any time there was a lull in their work, they would put together a couple pizzas and bring them out to us. One of their employees has a father who works in the plant.”
Local unions also pitched in, delivering meals, water and firewood for the strikers and volunteering to help walk the picket line.
Kage had special praise for the City of Wentzville.
“They really worked with us to make sure we could do our pickets and get our point across,” he said.
Kage met with the police chief, fire chief and mayor in the days leading up to the strike to work out logistics.
“We didn’t want this to have an adverse impact on the city of Wentzville any more than we knew it would, and the mayor and the police chief and fire chief they were all great. In fact, I just got a call from the police chief inviting me out to lunch to celebrate.”