How UAW contracts changed with new Ford, GM and Stellantis deals

 The United Automobile Workers union has reached a tentative agreement with General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis, the parent company of Ram, Chrysler, and Jeep. This agreement is expected to end the union's six-week strike against these major Detroit automakers. Here are the key details:

1. Pay Increase: The agreements include a 25 percent pay increase over the next four and a half years for workers at all three automakers. Additionally, there is a provision for a cost-of-living adjustment to ensure that inflation doesn't erode the wage gains.

2. Ford Specifics: At Ford, the starting wage would see a 68 percent increase, while the top rate would rise by 33 percent to over $42 per hour from $32. The tiered wage system, which paid newer workers less than seasoned workers, has been eliminated at two plants.

3. Benefits: Temporary workers will see a 150 percent pay increase over the agreement's duration. Retirement benefits will also be enhanced for current retirees, members with pensions, and members with 401(k) plans.

4. Ratification Process: The agreements are awaiting approval by the councils for Stellantis and General Motors, while Ford's council has already approved the tentative contract. Once approved, a majority of union members at each automaker need to ratify the agreements. Previously, it took nine days for workers to ratify the agreement that ended the 2019 strike against General Motors.

5. Return to Work: Striking workers at all three automakers have started to return to work or will do so soon while the agreements undergo ratification.

6. Inclusion of Battery Plants: G.M.'s battery plants, owned through a joint venture, will be covered by the national labor contract reached between the U.A.W. and the company. The agreement with Ford also facilitates the inclusion of workers at the company's battery plants in the U.A.W.

7. Organizing Efforts: U.A.W. President Shawn Fain aims to organize workers at Tesla's car and battery plants, as well as those owned by foreign automakers like Toyota, Honda, and BMW. The U.A.W. has not organized any major automaker plants in the South but represents workers at facilities for heavy truck manufacturers. Ford and G.M. also own auto plants in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas where the U.A.W. has a presence.

The U.A.W. is looking toward the future and aims to expand its organizing efforts beyond the Big Three automakers to include more companies in the industry, potentially becoming the Big Five or Big Six in future negotiations.  

General Motors Co. is the latest Detroit carmaker to announce a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW). That proposed deal, announced on Monday (Oct. 30), would end an almost six-week strike. It’s a long-overdue victory for auto workers that could also have a major fallout for the industry and consumers.

GM was the last holdout, following Jeep maker Stellantis and Ford Motor Co. to reach a tentative deal after the UAW began striking on Sept. 15. In its earnings announcement for the last quarter, the company said the strikes had cost it $800 million, plus $200 million more for another week with workers off the job.

The union has revealed little about the deal. However, the Associated Press reported that it would last four years and eight months, raising general wages by 25% for top earners and adding cost of living adjustments (COLAs), which would bring pay increases to more than 30% through April 30, 2028.

GM, Ford, and Stellantis have been negotiating with the UAW since July when the automakers wanted to limit wage hikes because their labor costs are already higher than for other carmakers like Tesla, Toyota, and Honda, which operate nonunion plants in the US.

Still, one auto expert warned that higher labor costs will have be to absorbed somewhere.

“It is a victory for auto workers, and [UAW president] Shawn Fain delivered what he promised, but it is not a victory for the auto industry as a whole, and not a victory for consumers,” Car Coach Reports’ Lauren Fix told Quartz.

Fix explained that while automakers could cut advertising, marketing, and public relations budgets, as well as executive salaries, some of their costs from the strike would be passed on to consumers. “You could probably be seeing increases of $1,000 to $1,500 per vehicle in order to offset these losses,” she said.

Fix also warned against pushing the US auto industry into a repeat of what happened during the Great Recession, when plummeting car sales forced carmakers to ask Congress for a bailout because they couldn’t meet payroll and bill obligations.

Deals are still “tentative” until workers approve them

After the UAW reached a tentative agreement with Ford last Wednesday (Oct. 25), the union has been keen to keep up the momentum, leading to settlements with Stellantis on Saturday (Oct. 28) and with GM today.

Nothing is certain until union workers vote to ratify the deals at each of the automakers. In a post last week about the Ford agreement, the UAW stressed that “emphasis should be placed on the word ‘tentative.’” But the union also deleted a post reportedly stating that the presidents of the Ford union locals had voted unanimously to endorse the proposed contract.

UAW workers for Mack Trucks have shot down a tentative deal, a straight-up rejection of the agreement their union had settled for.

Union man speaks on podium announcing automaker labor deals
UAW president Shawn Fain has called the deals with automakers “a turning point in the class war.”
Photo: REBECCA COOK (Reuters)

Costly strikes end with victories in wages

Two main themes that emerged during the strikes are the pain inflicted on automakers and the union’s push for what it maintains are much-needed wage increases.

The strikes have cost all three companies billions of dollars in lost production. Ford has said its tab is $1.3 billion and that if the UAW deal is ratified, it will push up labor expenses by $850 to $900 for each vehicle produced.

Ford’s agreement includes about $8.1 billion in investments, including boosting the production of electric cars and new vehicles across various assembly plants.

Wage raises plus higher COLAs would total more than 26% and bump up the maximum hourly wage to $40.82 by October 2027. For top-paid assembly workers, the economic gain would be $68,200 over the life of the contract, the UAW estimates.

Like the Ford agreement, the Stellantis deal gained ground on base wages, giving workers a 25% raise through April 2028. The top wage plus the estimated COLA will result in a gain of 33%, to more than $42 an hour. Combined with the COLA, the starting wage will increase 67%, to $30 an hour. Even the lowest-paid workers at Stellantis will get significant raises over the life of the agreement.

Stellantis UAW workers also won the right to strike over product and investment commitments for the first time in the union’s history.

UAW president Fain said in a webcast that the agreements are “a turning point in the class war that has been raging in this country for the past 40 years.” The union’s vice president, Chuck Browning, noted that “UAW members at Ford will receive more in straight general wage increases over the next four-and-a-half years than we have over the last 22 years combined.”

Both Ford and Stellantis UAW workers have returned to the job while the tentative deals are being voted on before ratification.

Drugstore workers around the country started calling in sick Monday to highlight a lack of support from their employers, protest organizers said.

The extent and impact of the demonstration, which is planned until Wednesday, were not clear as of Monday afternoon.

Pharmacists and technicians for dozens of drugstores had called in sick as of midday, said Lannie Duong, a pharmacist who is helping to organize the protest. She said organizers estimate that “at least hundreds” of pharmacists and technicians — mostly for Walgreens and other big retailers like CVS Health — were involved.

Pharmacists say they have been dealing with difficult working conditions for years. Those problems worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic when stores saw waves of people seeking tests, vaccines, and treatments.

Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said Monday afternoon that the company had to close three of its nearly 9,000 U.S. locations “due to workforce disruptions.”

CVS Health spokeswoman Amy Thibault said the company was not seeing “any unusual activity regarding unplanned pharmacy closures or pharmacist walkouts.”

This week’s protests followed a similar demonstration earlier this month that also targeted Walgreens and one last month involving CVS locations in the Kansas City area.

The retail pharmacists are not looking for more pay or vacation time, although they would support better wages for the technicians, said Duong, a California clinical pharmacist. She said the protest is more about giving employees the ability to do their jobs safely.

Pharmacists and technicians fill prescriptions, answer customer calls about drug shortages, work the drive-thru window, and provide a growing amount of care and health counseling.

Pharmacists in many stores now help people quit smoking and monitor their blood sugar. Many also test and treat for the flu, COVID-19, and strep throat.

Then there’s vaccines. Many shots are administered year-round, but each fall drugstores see a wave of people seeking protection against the flu and COVID-19. This year, there’s also a new shot for people ages 60 and older for a virus called RSV.

Administering a lot of vaccines leaves less time to check and fill prescriptions, said Shane Jerominski, a former Walgreens and CVS pharmacist who helped organize this week’s protest.

He said companies often prompt pharmacists to ask people about their vaccine needs at the cash register.

“Pharmacists and technicians are being put in positions like the perfume salesman at every mall,” said Jerominski, who now works at an independent drugstore in California. “You’re trying to upsell with everyone who comes in.”

Drugstore representatives say they are listening to employees’ concerns. Thibault said CVS Health is working to give its pharmacies room to schedule more staff. It also is trying to improve pharmacist and technician recruiting and hiring.

Walgreens has opened 11 processing centers around the country that aim to fill regular prescriptions for chronic medications and take some workload off store pharmacists.

Engerman also noted that the company has removed performance-based metrics for its pharmacists.

Ultimately, retail pharmacies need more staffing to avoid creating dangerous working conditions that lead to medication errors, Duong said.

“There’s no way around that,” she said.

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