It took five weeks of intense bargaining — with breaks for sleep, prayer and a few finger-pointing press releases — but the UAW and General Motors finally reached a tentative agreement covering wages and benefits for more than 46,000 hourly workers. Workers will stay on the picket lines until a contract is ratified.
Now comes the hard part.
For as contentious as negotiations appeared amid the longest national strike at a Detroit 3 automaker since Richard Nixon occupied the White House, union leaders face an even more daunting challenge in selling the deal to the rank and file.
This ratification process will expose just how members feel about the union's ongoing corruption scandal, which to date has resulted in 11 people charged, nine guilty pleas and the reported implication of President Gary Jones and his predecessor, Dennis Williams.
Workers on the picket lines have, with some regularity, dismissed much of the scandal as the misdeeds of a few bad apples who aren't representative of the union as a whole. That's all well and good until some of those alleged bad apples negotiate a contract that you don't like.
Even in normal times, members are wary of backroom dealings and sellout contracts. Those fears will be amplified this year thanks to evidence that union bosses spent years guzzling expensive champagne, puffing expensive cigars and otherwise enjoying life's finer pleasures on the members' dime.
Regardless of whether the current leadership is completely innocent of wrongdoing (and no one directly involved in bargaining this year has been charged with a crime), the perception of corruption is likely to affect how workers vote, especially if they feel the contract doesn't give them everything they want — which, by the definition of compromise and negotiation, is likely the case.
Some members wanted new hires to immediately earn top wages, for GM to assign new products to every plant on the chopping block and for all temps to be hired full time. That's not going to happen, and it's much easier to blame your "no" vote on corrupt union bargainers bending to the company's will than it is to accept that broad economic factors, and the ultimate health of the company you work for, prohibit that wish list from coming true.
The union will have to sell the deal through in-person meetings and on social media — something it has struggled with in the past. It remains to be seen how effective it can be in shaping the message online.
Even if union leaders do everything right, some members are automatic "no" votes, thinking they can squeeze a few more dollars out of the company if they send their representatives back to the bargaining table.
Recent history shows that's possible; after workers voted down a tentative deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2015, they ended up getting more in the second proposed agreement, which was overwhelmingly ratified.
It remains to be seen whether history will repeat itself, but one thing is clear: All those long nights and early mornings both at the bargaining table and on the picket line were easy compared with what happens now.