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Strike against GM continues as workers learn about tentative deal, and decide how to vote

UAW worker on strike
Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio

GM employee and union member Nicole Henning will head to the picket line on Thursday as she has for the past five weeks. 

The Lansing Delta Township Assembly worker gets the 8 p.m. to midnight shift. She says everyone is working hard to keep up their morale.

"It's cold out there now," says Henning. "It's weird, because the first few weeks, it was warm out, we still wore T-shirts. And now people are pulling out their winter coats and burning a lot of wood and trying to make it through the night."

Henning attended her local's "rollout session" on Sunday. That's when rank and file of each local can ask international union leaders questions about the tentative contract, to help them decide how to vote.

She says reaction was pretty mixed.

"Different parts of the contract are appealing to different people, so it's kind of hard to get a sense as to how everybody feels about the contract," she says.

But Henning doesn't think all the negative posts on Facebook are a reliable indication of whether people will vote to ratify or not.

"The people that are going to vote no, they just feel very strongly about it," says Henning. "So those are the people that are voicing their opinions. It doesn't necessarily mean that that's how the entire membership feels, that's what everybody is seeing on Facebook."

The contract provides an hourly wage increase in two of the four years for permanent employees, as well as a ratification bonus of $11,000. So-called "in progression" workers – those hired after 2007 – will get a faster progression to the top wage if the deal is ratified. 

The tentative contract also offers paid time off for temporary workers for the first time, as well as an increase in the hours available for unpaid time off for temps.

Union leaders said GM tried to get a major concession by requiring workers to pay more for their health insurance, but that they were able to hold the line and keep out-of-pocket costs the same in this deal.

But GM will not reopen three of the plants it closed this year: Lordstown, Ohio, Baltimore Transmission, and Warren Transmission. Detroit Hamtramck will reopen at some point to build a new electric pickup.

Other than the production allocation for Detroit Hamtramck, the contract does not specify which plant will get which product over the next four years. That's unusual; most tentative deals have provided that information in the past.

Locals must turn in the results of voting to UAW headquarters by 4 p.m on Friday. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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