GM strikers win big gains

After 40 days on the picket line, the longest nationwide strike against General Motors in nearly 50 years ended Oct. 25 when members of United Auto Workers (UAW) voted by 57% to ratify a new four-year contract. The new agreement means an $11,000 ratification bonus for about 48,000 workers at 55 factories and parts centers.

It also phases out a two-tier system that UAW agreed to in 2007, in which new hires were paid lower wages and would never reach the same wage as more senior workers. About a third of the workforce is now in that lower-paid tier. By the end of the new contract, they’ll reach a new top wage of $32 an hour, the same as the more senior workers.

The contract also provides 4% lump-sum bonuses in the  years 1 and 3, and 3% wage increases in years 2 and 4. It removes a $12,000 cap on the profit-sharing formula, which gives $1,000 to every worker for each $1 billion GM earns in North American pretax profit. And it converts more than 900 temporary workers to regular employees in January.

The deal is not without union concessions. It allows GM to close three factories and one parts depot. But GM dropped a demand for concessions on health care: Workers will continue to pay 3% of the cost.

Workers were motivated to strike in part because GM was being tight-fisted with workers at a time of record profits.

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