October 24, 2019 4:30 PM, EDT

GM Edges Toward Ending Strike as Key Factory Backs Labor Deal

GM picket lineStrikers outside a GM plant in Romulus, Mich., by Brittany Greeson/Bloomberg

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General Motors Co. moved closer to ending a five-week strike when 61% of workers at an important truck plant in Flint, Mich., supported a tentative labor agreement.

Executives and union leaders had been closely watching the Oct. 23 vote at the pickup factory because, with 4,800 employees, it’s the automaker’s second largest and the city itself is a United Auto Workers union stronghold. With the plant behind the deal, it’s a further sign the ratification vote will prevail as other major branches cast their ballots in coming days.

So far, more than 60% of voting workers at about a dozen facilities, some of them very small, have approved the deal. Two other important union branches will vote in the next two days: A truck plant in Fort Wayne, Ind., with 4,500 staff, and an Arlington, Texas, operation with more than 5,000. With Flint, those three plants make up 30% of the voting employees.

Another plant in Lansing, Mich., also voted heavily in favor of the deal Oct. 23. Of the more than 1,400 workers voting, 75% approved the pact. That plant builds the Chevrolet Camaro sports car and Cadillac sedans.

The labor pact offers employees an $11,000 bonus plus 3% raises in two years and 4% lump sum payments in others. Entry-level workers, who used to need eight years to get from $18 an hour to the top wage of $30 an hour, will get to the new peak hourly rate of $32.32 in four years. The downside for the UAW: GM will close three plants.

That’s why the deal was rejected at UAW Local 2164 in Bowling Green, Ky., where the Chevy Corvette sports car is being built. In that plant, 55% of the nearly 900 voting workers were against the deal. The reason, said Local 2164 Chairman Jason Watson, is that the plant has a lot of staff who have transferred from factories in Lordstown, Ohio, and Baltimore that are being closed.

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