Tentative deals steer UAW strike toward a close

Oct. 30, 2023
Deals bring union big raises, power to strike over proposed plant closures. GM supplier looks to future.

By Karen Hanna 

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is suspending its so-called Stand Up Strike, as it announced late Monday afternoon it has reached a tentative agreement with General Motors (GM) — the last of the Big Three automakers to come to terms over the course of the 45-day labor dispute. 

While the union’s rank and file consider the terms of agreements with GM, Stellantis and Ford, they will return to work. The union’s company-specific teams planned to travel to Detroit this week as part of its next steps toward contract finalization. 

In a statement available online at GM Negotiations 2023, GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra said: “GM is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the UAW that reflects the contributions of the team while enabling us to continue to invest in our future and provide good jobs in the U.S. We are looking forward to having everyone back to work across all of our operations, delivering great products for our customers, and winning as one team.” 

UAW President Shawn Fain has heralded the terms of the tentative agreements as record-breaking and “astonishing.” In his announcement of the GM agreement, which came just days after agreements with Stellantis and Ford, he said, “For the past several weeks, analysts and pundits were crying that our union was going too far, that we were demanding too much. We didn't listen to them, and we never let up. The result is one of the most stunning contract victories since the sit down strikes in the 1930s.” 

Earlier Monday, as multiple news outlets reported a tentative agreement with GM, the president of one Detroit-area molding shop said he was breathing a sigh of relief that the strike against the Big Three is over. 

“Yes, we are relieved it’s over, especially since it really had no effect on us whatsoever,” said Jeff Ignatowski, president of Champion Plastics, Auburn Hills, Mich., which has been able to maintain its levels of around 25-30 employees. “I do think it will have a negative effect overall on the OEMs and the supply base, though.” 

In announcements regarding the tentative agreements with the Big Three, Fain has heralded record concessions.  

According to Fain and a UAW statement, the GM agreement includes: 

  • Recognition of the unionization of workers involved with Ultium cell battery production for electric vehicles 
  • General increases for salaried workers, plus cost-of-living adjustments to match the increase of wage increases 
  • The transition of temporary workers to permanent status 
  • An end to wage tiers 
  • Five payments of $500 to current retirees and surviving spouses 
  • Other increases for retirees with pensions or 401(k) plans.  

In all, assuming the contract is ratified, the starting wage for assembly workers will increase about 70 percent, from $18 an hour to over $30 an hour. The top wage would increase about 33 percent, from $32.32 an hour to $42.95 an hour.  

At ratifications, some lower-tiered workers will see their paychecks increase by as much as 89 percent.  

“Now that we have a groundbreaking tentative agreement at GM, we're officially suspending our stand up strike against each of the Big Three,” Fain said.  

The terms are in line with the UAW’s tentative agreement with Ford, announced last week, as well as the one with Stellantis announced over the weekend

At Tier 2 Champion Plastics, which does significant business with GM, Ignatowski said he’s wary about the future impacts of the tentative agreements.  

“The Big Three will struggle to compete against the Asian OEMs, and I’m concerned the UAW might have won the battle but may lose the war long term,” he said. 

Read more from IndustryWeek, an Endeavor Business Media partner publication. 

As plastics processors who supply the automakers prepare to resume full production, supply chain expert Terry Onica of QAD offers advice, including a start-up checklist. 

Stellantis agreement 

The Stellantis tentative agreement includes: 

  • A commitment by Stellantis of $19 billion in investments in the U.S., including at the Toledo Machining Plant in Ohio and the Trenton Engine Complex in Michigan, and thousands of new jobs 
  • The reopening of the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois, with the addition of 1,000 new jobs at a new battery plant 
  • A 25 percent in base wage increases through April 2028 
  • A 67 percent compounded base-wage increase, including a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) 
  • Raises of more than 165 percent for temporary workers over the life of the agreement 
  • The reinstatement of a three-year wage progression 
  • The elimination of wage tiers 
  • The conversion of temporary workers to permanent status 
  • Increases in pensions and 401(k) for retirees 
  • The right to strike over product and investment commitments, and plant closures 

In all, it will cumulatively raise the top wage by 33 percent compounded with estimated COLA to over $42 an hour, and the base wage to over $30 an hour. According to Boyer, workers will receive an immediate 11 percent raise upon ratification; some could get immediate wage bumps of 76 percent. 

Ford agreement 

The Ford agreement includes:  

  • An immediate wage increase of at least 11 percent 
  • A 25 percent increases in base wages through April 2028 
  • A 68 percent for the starting wage, to over $28 an hour 
  • Raises of over 150 percent for temporary workers 
  • The reinstatement of cost-of-living allowances and a three-year wage progression, both lost during the Great Recession 
  • The elimination of tiered employment statuses 
  • The right to strike over plant closures — a first for the union 
  • Increases for retired members  

Cumulatively, if ratified, the contract would raise the top wage by over 30 percent to more than $40 an hour. The lowest-paid workers at Ford would see a raise of more than 150 percent over the life of the agreement, with some workers receiving an immediate 85 percent increase immediately upon ratification.  

With base-wage increases that exceed anything Ford workers have received in 22 years, the gains in the deal are valued at more than four times the gains from the 2019 contract, according to a UAW press release. 


About the Author

Karen Hanna | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Karen Hanna covers injection molding, molds and tooling, processors, workforce and other topics, and writes features including In Other Words and Problem Solved for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. She has more than 15 years of experience in daily and magazine journalism.