GM Workers End Strike after Approving New Contract

October 29, 2019

In mid-September, nearly 50,000 General Motors employees represented by the United Auto Workers union went on strike after failing to reach an agreement with the company. Staffers walked picket lines for more than a month as they fought for improved wages, benefits, and job security. Then last week the standoff finally ended as the union struck a deal with management that partially gave in to some of the workers’ demands.

For instance, employees are now guaranteed a 3 percent pay raise and a 4 percent lump sum increase in alternating years. In order to improve job security, GM will invest billions of dollars to keep three factories open that it had planned to close. The new contract also provides temporary workers with the opportunity to become full-time staff after working at the company for three years. Health care costs will remain stable as well, putting an end to fears that GM would raise premiums this year. 

Still, the UAW strike wasn’t a total victory for workers: a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that closed last year will remain shuttered. Although GM plans to open an electric car battery factory near the town, the facility won’t employ nearly as many people as the old automobile plant. What’s more, analysts claim that the union’s latest pay increase isn’t as generous as it seems. In fact, GM workers received the same raise in 2015 without having to go on strike. Employees also lost an estimated $989 million in wages while walking picket lines. At the same time, experts estimate that GM lost nearly $4 billion as a result of the strike. 

Questions:

  1. What did GM workers gain and lose by going on strike? 
  2. Do you think GM workers could go on strike again in the near future? Why or why not?

Sources: Michael Wayland, “UAW Strike Cost GM About $3.8 Billion for 2019, Substantially Higher Than Estimated,” CNBC, October 29, 2019; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “The GM Strike Has Officially Ended. Here’s What Workers Won and Lost,” Vox, October 25, 2019.

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