Transformative win for UAW as GM agrees to include electric battery plant workers under master agreement

UNITED AUTO WORKERS President Shawn Fain announced last week after the Big Three automakers made concessions at the bargaining table. UAW’s strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis is now in its fourth week. – UAW Facebook livestream screencap

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Detroit, MI – “Our strike is working!” United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain proclaimed last week after the Big Three automakers made concessions at the bargaining table, including General Motors Co. agreeing to include battery plant workers under its master agreement with the union.

“We are winning, making progress and headed in the right direction, and while today’s win is transformative, our goal is to win a record contract,” Fain, wearing an “Eat the rich” t-shirt ,said during a Facebook livestream on Oct. 6. “We view this as a direct result of the power of our membership.

“In just three weeks, we have moved these companies further than anyone thought was possible,” he said.

UAW members at GM’s Wentzville Assembly plant have been on strike since Sept. 14, when the UAW launched an innovative Stand Up strike against the Big Three automakers: GM, Ford and Stellantis.

There are 25,300 UAW members on strike across the country of the approximately 146,000 employed by GM, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis. The union was preparing to send out its members at GM’s full-size SUV plant in Arlington, Texas — the company’s most profitable — until GM agreed to the union’s battery plant demand at the last minute, Fain said.

UAW negotiators have also seen progress on other demands, Fain said. The top wage increase offer from Ford is now 23 percent, up from the nine percent increase and lump-sum payments included in the automaker’s original proposal provided at the end of August. GM and Stellantis still are both “around 20 percent,” Fain said.

“It’s not where we need to be,” said Fain, whose original request to the automakers was a 40 percent raise, “but it’s a hell of a lot further along.”

To get to the top wage, Ford has offered for workers to get there in three years, instead of the current eight-year progression. GM and Stellantis remain at four years.

UAW recently released a video featuring UAW Local 2250 members discussing the concessions they made for the Big Three automakers to keep them afloat during the Great Recession and how the automakers reneged on their promises that the concessions would be temporary. (See story on page 6.)

On cost-of-living adjustments, the Detroit Free Press reports Ford and Stellantis have agreed to reinstate the traditional formula that was suspended in 2009. GM isn’t far behind, Fain said.

For temporary and supplemental workers who are used to fill in absences, Ford is offering a wage of $21 per hour, while GM and Stellantis stand at $20 per hour, Fain said. All three, he added, have made commitments to converting those workers to full-time, though he didn’t share details. Ford has said it has agreed to convert current temps with at least three months of experience to full-time.

GM’s decision to include battery-plant workers in the master agreement “lays the foundation for a just transition” to electric vehicles, Fain said.

The inclusion of the battery plant workers is a historic win for the union. It had been held that these employees, whose top wages are less than those at vehicle assembly plants, couldn’t be included in the master agreement, because the employers mostly are joint ventures the automakers operate with Korean battery manufacturers, the Free Press reported.

On matters of job security, the Free Press reports, Ford agreed to allow the UAW to strike over plant closures, and said it has made product commitments for all of its UAW-organized plants for the length of the contract.

Stellantis, to stave off a strike expansion, agreed to give workers the right not to cross a picket line and to strike in the event of a plant closure, as well.

Fain said the union continues to fight for improved pension benefits for those with pensions, as well as the expansion of pensions and post-retirement health care to workers hired after the ratification of the 2007 agreements.

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