UAW decision on GM tentative agreement remains uncertain

The outcome of the tentative agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers remains uncertain as the latest results from several GM plants were announced on Wednesday.

Mike Martinez, a reporter for Automotive News, has followed the UAW negotiations and ratification process plant by plant. Compared to Ford and Stellantis, convincing GM workers to ratify the deal is more challenging. 

"It could be that GM has a lot more older workers, and those traditional workers –that are already making top wages– aren’t seeing as much of a pay bump as maybe some of the younger temporary workers or new hires," Martinez said. 

GM employees at Flint Assembly, Lansing Delta Assembly, and other facilities in Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky voted against the deal. However, GM workers at Arlington, Texas, voted yes on Wednesday.

"It appears the production plants –the assembly plants– have a higher reject rate than some of the other plants, or the other facilities," said Alan Amici, President and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research.

There are 46,000 workers employed by GM that are voting on their own agreement. As of Wednesday afternoon, 17,135 GM union members voted yes, while 14,657 voted no. 

The GM's ratification vote tracker can be found here.

The uncertainty is causing worry in the automotive industry, said Jan Griffiths, a former auto supply chain executive. 

"If this agreement is not ratified, then there’s a possibility that we could go back into a strike situation," Griffiths said. "But I have to believe that all parties involved will do everything in their power to avoid that situation from happening."

Martinez said UAW President Shawn Fain "set expectations very high, and we’re seeing that now."

"A 25% raise looks great, but not when you were originally thinking you might get 40," he added.

All tentative agreements with the Big Three include contributions to 401(k) plans, ratification bonuses, and a 25% wage hike for all autoworkers.

Upon ratification, GM workers get a pay raise of 11%. They'll get 3% each year in 2024, 2025, and 2026. In 2027, that will increase to 5%.

"If you’re a senior employee you may only have two, three, or four more years before retirement and this may be your last contact," Amici said. "So there may be some motivation to try to get a larger increase now that benefits more senior employees."

As the ratification process continues, Ford appears to be the closest to passing a deal.

"Stellantis – still kind of early right now, and you wonder if big plants voting no could have an effect on them because those workers are saying, ‘Hey if GM is going to send it back, what if we could get more too? Maybe I’ll vote no,'" Martinez said.


UAW ratification vote ongoing - track voting totals on Detroit 3 contract offers here

The hard part is over and the UAW leadership believe they have secured the best possible contract. Workers must still ratify the deals before they can go into effect.

Thousands of UAW members joined picket lines in targeted strikes against Detroit automakers over a six-week stretch before tentative deals were reached late last month. Rather than striking at one company, the union targeted individual plants at all three automakers. At its peak last month, about 46,000 of the union’s 146,000 workers at the Detroit companies were walking picket lines.

American auto production is still trying to recover two weeks after the historic strike ended, which cost the industry at least $10.4 billion, according to an assessment by the Anderson Economic Group.

"A step backward at this point will, again, put more stress, more pressure on the supply base, and we cannot allow that to happen," Griffiths said. 

If any of the tentative agreements fall through, the UAW may return to negotiating to address areas of concern and conduct another vote. However, many sources close to the ratification process anticipate that all three agreements will ultimately be approved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.