General Motors’ Union of Automobile Workers (UAW) employees will be getting back to work this week after more than a month of organized strikes due to disputes between the company and its employees regarding things such as health care, permanent opportunities for temporary workers and scheduled pay raises.
According to Glenn Kage, who is the president of the UAW Local Chapter 2250 in Wentzville, GM wanted to transfer 15 – percent of the workers’ health care cost to the worker.
“That was completely out of line with where we were at especially due to the fact that they’ve been making near record profits,” Kage said.
Another one of the areas of dispute was the lack of permanent opportunity for temporary workers.
“We have temporary workers with more than four years of service to General Motors and at some point the term temporary is lost in General Motors vocabulary,” Kage said.
Kage said that going into a position knowing that there is now a path to permanency – which gives workers more benefits such as health care, more days off, more vacation pay and general job security – will increase the level of productivity.
The strikes lasted around 40 days but Kage said that it wasn’t because of any hold up or miscommunication.
“There’s been quite a bit of back and forth. There have been at least twelve exchanges of offers since July. It got to the deadline and General Motors was asking for concessions out of UAW even though they are making near record profits and it left UAW with no choice but to call this nationwide strike,” Kage said.
A tentative agreement that was reached last week was reviewed by workers on Wednesday, October 28 in informational meetings and then voted on nationwide on Thursday.
The vote passed and the new agreement went into action, and Kage said that it was, at this time, what he considered the best situation they could get.
“We maintained our healthcare, status quo, and didn’t have to give up any health care or have to pay more for health care, which is good,” Kage said.
There were also 2 to 3 – percent pay increase over the next four years written into the agreement along with performance bonuses, an $11,000 signing bonus and a lifting of the cap on profit sharing.
“There were some major economic gains in the path to permanency for temporary workers,” Kage said.
He said that he didn’t think that the workers faced any losses in the agreement, but that there was a decision made by GM that seemed like a “slap in the face” to Kage.
“General Motors had plans to outsource a couple of their plants and they followed through with that before the contract expired,” Kage said.
One of the plants was in Lordstown, Ohio, where the Chevy Cruz was manufactured, and that operation was moved to Mexico, where the average wage for an auto assembler is as low as three dollars an hour, which Kage admits is just “hard to compete with.”
“I think it’s a slap in the face to the American taxpayer that bailed General Motors out back in 2009. And it’s also a slap in the face to the autoworkers. We couldn’t get those jobs back to the United States. That was one of the things that we were not successful at that I know we were pushing for,” Kage said.
Kage wanted to thank the City of Wentzville and the surrounding communities for helping the workers he represents stand up for what they believed was right.
“I’d really like to thank Wentzville and the surrounding communities for all their support that helped our members endure this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 40 day strike. They helped them stay strong on the picket lines and brought home a victory for our members,” Kage said.