UAW reaches deal with GM, ending auto strike with big win for workers

The last domino has fallen, with UAW and GM reaching a deal to end the auto industry strike. Now, tentative deals have been met with all three auto companies, which means the strike is over.

The deal has not yet been confirmed by either GM or UAW, but it was first reported by Bloomberg and has been widely reported since. It comes just two days after GM workers walked out of the Cadillac Lyriq plant at Spring Hill Assembly in Tennessee.

As a result, we have even fewer details than with the last deals with Ford and Stellantis. In both of those cases, UAW posted a video going over some details of the deal, but in this case, they have not yet posted a similar video.

Bloomberg reports that the deal is “broadly similar” to the first two deals. GM has the most unionized workers of the Big Three, and retirement benefits were particularly in focus, so we’ll have to see what other specifics come out of that deal when it’s revealed.

But the basic details likely include a 25% increase in pay for all workers – which is a larger raise than all combined wage raises between 2001-2022 – plus cost-of-living adjustments. These cost-of-living adjustments used to be part of union contracts but were given up during the economic downturn, which started in 2008 and took until now for the workers to get back.

One unique part of the GM deal that we already know about is that GM has agreed to bring all US GM joint-venture battery plants under the union master agreement. This represented a “leapfrog” in negotiations from GM, putting the company in front of others in terms of their offer to UAW, but then GM ended up being the last to come to a final agreement.

And batteries were an important win for UAW because in discussions over this strike, interviewers have repeatedly tried to get UAW President Shawn Fain to badmouth electric vehicles and blame them for wage or job problems, but Fain has never taken the bait. Instead, he has always insisted that the UAW is looking for a “just transition” to electric vehicles that ensures workers still get treated fairly as the industry is upended.

Previously, battery workers had been paid significantly less than other manufacturing workers, though UAW had made progress on that front even before the strike began.

The deal with Stellantis also included a boost to electric vehicles. UAW got Stellantis to promise to reopen a shuttered plant in Belvidere, Illinois, and further to commit to building a new battery factory at the same site, which should add approximately 1,000 battery jobs that previously had not been planned.

While we don’t know the details of this deal yet, the process to approve it is likely to be the same. The deal needs to be finalized by union leadership, who will then present it to all union members by publishing it online and via Facebook livestream. Then meetings will be held, and the deal will be voted on by each local chapter.

But, in previous deals, UAW has directed workers to go back to work right away once the tentative agreement has been reached in a show of good faith that everyone wants to end this strike quickly. Leadership is confident that these deals are good enough that they will be ratified by members when the time comes and that everyone is eager to get back to work.

Unions have been having a bit of a moment in the US in the last couple of years as frustrated workers have started demanding more. The US has seen upticks in union membership, strike activity, and union popularity, with unions reaching their highest approval rating since polls began in 1965.

Several successful strikes have happened across the US economy, and UAW seems to want to bring this momentum forward into the future. To this end, UAW has invited other unions in America to align contract expirations around the same time frame, so as to inspire broader labor action.

The contracts UAW negotiated are expected to last 4.5 years until April 30, 2028. This is the day before May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, a day that commemorates the early labor movement in the US, but is more celebrated overseas than it is here. It seems clear that UAW is targeting much bigger labor action across the economy in the future.

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