In a significant turn of events, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union at Ford and Stellantis have overwhelmingly ratified their labor deals, putting an end to any looming threats of auto strikes due to rank-and-file opposition to these agreements. The resounding approval comes with a larger margin of support than what was observed among members at General Motors (GM).
The final votes, which were posted on the UAW ratification vote tracker, revealed that an impressive 69% of the membership at both Ford and Stellantis voted in favor of the proposed contracts over the course of the two-week ratification process. In stark contrast, the votes from GM, which were posted earlier, showed that only 55% of their members approved a similar deal, highlighting a noticeable difference in sentiment among UAW members at the three major automakers.
It’s important to note that strikers at all Ford, Stellantis, and GM plants and facilities had already returned to work several weeks ago when their respective tentative agreements on a new contract were initially reached.
However, despite the approval for the deals at all three companies, there has been some notable opposition among a section of the UAW membership. The UAW reports that workers at more than a dozen GM factories and facilities voted against the deal. While opposition was more scattered at Ford and Stellantis, it did include workers at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, its largest factory. Additionally, three facilities at Stellantis voted against the deal, including the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, which had been one of the first factories to go on strike on September 15.
Support for these three deals appears weaker compared to other recent high-profile labor contracts. In August, 86% of Teamsters voted in favor of a deal with UPS that covered 340,000 hourly workers there. Similarly, earlier this month, 98.5% of union members at Kaiser Permanente voted in favor of a deal covering 85,000 members.
Nonetheless, the resounding approval of the contracts at America’s three unionized automakers is significant as it effectively quashes any possibility of further strikes against the Detroit automakers. Had members at any of the companies voted against the agreements, the union might have been compelled to send workers back to the picket line while attempting to negotiate a better deal.
Recent labor history includes numerous instances of membership voting down deals negotiated by their unions, leading to strikes. Most recently, nearly 4,000 members at Mack Trucks rejected a deal similar to the three auto deals on October 8, resulting in a strike that lasted until a resolution was reached on November 15.
In the case of Mack Trucks, when it became evident that the basic terms of the rejected deal would not be altered, members voted again on November 15, this time with a 93% majority in favor. This effectively ended the strike.
The three agreements, which collectively cover a total of 145,000 UAW members, were reached after the union simultaneously initiated a strike at all three companies on September 15. This strike marked the longest auto strike in this century.
Notably, the union did not strike all of the factories and facilities at once but instead began with 12,700 members striking at one assembly plant in each of the three companies. Over the subsequent seven weeks, the strike’s scope expanded six times to exert increased pressure on the companies, ultimately involving nearly 50,000 union members at some point during the work stoppage.
Under the terms of these agreements, which were mirrored at every company, workers will receive an immediate raise of at least 11%. Additionally, the deals guarantee additional raises, which, when combined with a return of a cost-of-living adjustment, could result in wage increases of more than 30% over the contract’s duration, running through 2028. Furthermore, there were improvements in retirement benefits and job security provisions.
UAW President Shawn Fain had communicated to members that the tentative agreements with all three unionized automakers represented record-breaking deals and victories for the union. He emphasized that the union had secured every last penny that the companies were willing to offer. However, he also reiterated that the final decision rested with the membership.
It’s worth noting that the union was unable to secure all of its demands, which included the restoration of health care coverage for retirees and the reintroduction of traditional pension plans for those hired since 2007. These employees currently have only a 401(k) plan without a promised monthly payout.
Despite Fain’s optimistic stance on the deals, many members who participated in the discussions on Facebook Live expressed criticism of the tentative agreements. Some urged fellow members to vote against the deals without providing specific reasons for their opposition. Others contended that the union could achieve better deals if members rejected the proposals, with some expressing concerns that too many of the gains would benefit recently hired workers, including temporary workers who would now become permanent employees, at the expense of more senior workers.
The resounding approval of the labor deals by UAW members at Ford and Stellantis, with a larger margin of support than seen at GM, signifies a crucial step towards labor stability in the American automotive industry. While there were pockets of opposition, the agreements’ acceptance effectively eliminates the possibility of further strikes against the Detroit automakers. The negotiations, marked by the longest auto strike in this century, have resulted in significant wage increases and improved benefits for the unionized workers, although some of the union’s demands remained unmet.