GM, UAW deal on narrow road to approval as votes roll in

The redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro on the production line at GM's Lansing Grand River assembly plant in Lansing, Mich., where UAW members have approved a new labor contract with the company. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

General Motors’ tentative four-year pact with the UAW appears to be on the path to ratification after key union locals at major plants voted in favor of it, according to public postings and media reports over the last few days.

While some chapters have yet to vote, recent votes appeared to push the pact closer to ratification in what has been a close race. Analysts told Reuters the contract appeared on its way to passage, but were cautious about declaring it would pass.

Workers at the Fort Wayne truck plant in Indiana approved the contract by a wide margin, said the president of the local union today. The vote was 1,839 to 1,311 at the plant, which makes GM pickups.

Fort Wayne joined large plants in Wentzville, Mo., and Spring Hill, Tenn., which approved the contract Wednesday night. At those plants, at least 60 percent of workers favored the deal, local media and social media posts show.

In Wentzville, which produces midsize pickups and full-size vans, 57 percent of the roughly 3,484 workers voted for the deal thanks to sweeping support from production workers, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Sixty percent of Spring Hill workers at Spring Hill voted Wednesday to approve the contract. The plant, which employs 1,509 hourly workers, produces the Chevrolet Equinox.

Workers at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant voted to approve the contract, with 54 percent of the 1,290 ballots cast voting yes and 46 percent voting no. Like at several other facilities, support from production workers offset a majority of skilled-trades workers turning it down.

Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst with the Center for Automotive Research, said that overall, workers appeared on their way to passing the deal.

GM workers have been voting throughout the week on the contract, which was tentatively approved by union and company leadership last month. The contract puts second-tier wage workers on an eight-year path toward full pay and gives all workers an $8,000 signing bonus, among other key points.

Early in the week, voting had been split at several key plants, including Toledo Transmission in Ohio, where production workers had voted 51 percent to 49 percent in favor of the agreement, while skilled trades workers rejected it by 59 percent to 41 percent. More than 1,800 workers are employed at the plant, which narrowly rejected the contract overall.

Among other key votes made public or reported on thus far, workers had rejected the agreement at Arlington Assembly in Texas, which employs 3,900 workers, the Techical Center in Warren, Mich., which employs 1,537 workers, Fairfax Assembly in Kansas, which employs 3,230 workers, and Parma Metal Center in Ohio, which employs 1,192 workers.

Meanwhile, workers at plants in Flint, Mich., which employ more than 5,100 workers, and in Pontiac, Mich., which employ about 1,100 workers, voted in favor of the deal. Workers at plants in Lake Orion, Mich. (1,553 workers), Defiance, Ohio (1,026 workers) and the Lansing Grand River plant in Michigan (1,570 workers) also accepted the deal.

While most large GM plants have finished voting, the Lansing Delta Township plant in Michigan, which employs almost 3,000 hourly workers, and the Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio, which employs more than 4,100, have not.

The tentative GM deal comes after workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles voted to approve a new contract in October after rejecting a previous deal in September. The UAW and Ford Motor Co. would be the last major contract to be completed.

Negotiators for Ford continued to meet with UAW representatives but had not begun discussions on the final economic terms of a contract, said people familiar with the talks.

It is widely believed that the final push to nail down a contract at Ford would not begin until after GM's ratification vote.

Reuters contributed to this report.

You can reach John Irwin at jirwin@crain.com -- Follow John on Twitter: @JohnDIrwin

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