The United Automobile Workers union members approved new contracts with the three major U.S. automakers, marking a significant achievement after more than 20 years without substantial gains. General Motors’ vote was closely contested, with 55 percent of members supporting the new contract, while Ford Motor and Stellantis achieved more decisive margins of approval.
The union posted the final vote tally of nearly 36,000 G.M. locals on Thursday. These tentative agreements were similar across the three automakers and included a 25 percent wage increase for production workers to more than $40 over four and a half years, up from $32. The agreements also include larger company contributions to workers’ retirement plans and the right to strike over plant closures.
The ratification of these contracts has brought significant change to the auto industry, leading to other nonunion companies such as Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda announcing significant wage increases for U.S. workers only days later. The U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, confirmed that thousands of workers are now contacting the union seeking union representation.
However, many union members, particularly those who had worked for the Big Three automakers for many years, were skeptical of the proposed contracts. Despite the significant gains for newer workers, veteran employees in the industry felt that the proposed contracts did not adequately compensate them. This skepticism led to large proportions of G.M. workers voting against the tentative agreement.
In addition, U.A.W. members at Mack Truck ratified a contract on Wednesday, after rejecting the initial agreement with the company. There were also internal strains during the ratification process, including the Unite All Workers for Democracy group declining to formally recommend the contract’s approval and concerns about the dissemination of information to local union officials and members. Furthermore, the path to ratifying the contracts underscored some tension between the union and the White House as President Biden increasingly sided with the union’s members during negotiations.
The ratification of the contracts also had political implications for President Biden, who waded into the negotiations over the summer and fall and incurred the anger of business leaders by increasingly siding with the union’s members. Some union members argued that the union leadership could have pushed for more at the bargaining table, while others expressed support for the president’s stance in the negotiations.