GM, UAW Reach New Contract, Spring Hill Plant To Re-Open

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

As predicted, the hand-wringing over Sergio Marchionne’s letter to Bob King was not enough to derail the basic motivations for the UAW to reach new deals with the automakers. Last night the union agreed to a tentative agreement with GM, its pattern target for this, the first round of negotiations since the bailout. That agreement must be approved by the union rank-and-file, but if ratified, Reuters reports that it includes

  • The re-opening of the idled Spring Hill, TN plant to build an unspecified “new product”
  • $5,000 signing bonuses (at a cost to GM of $245m)
  • According to the NYT, “significant improvements to health care benefits” are also part of the deal
  • According to AN [sub], the union “successfully fought back efforts to make major changes — and weaken — our retirement plan.”

What’s not yet clear is whether entry-level “Tier Two” workers, who make half what their “Tier One” brothers make, got a raise. Though it’s clear that GM and the UAW worked to avoid major increases to fixed costs by concentrating on jobs and profit-sharing bonus checks, the NYT confirms that the union was asking for some kind of entry-level raise. Given that no outlet is confirming any such Tier Two raise, though, it seems as though the UAW’s culture of seniority-over-solidarity has won out. We’ll report on details as they emerge, which is likely to happen as locals ratify the contract over the next ten days.

And though the UAW still faces battles with a feisty Marchionne and a wary Ford negotiating team, union President Bob King still has an eye on the big picture. Telling Bloomberg that he’s “re-committed” to the goal of organizing non-union transplant factories, he argues

As long as unionized workers are being forced to compete with nonunion workers who in most cases receive lower pay and benefits — many in temporary jobs — there will continue to be a downward pressure on the wages and benefits of all autoworkers.

In a recent conversation with Bloomberg, CAW President Buzz Hargrove essentially argued that the automakers would give up little in this round of negotiations. The key then, was finding things the union wanted that didn’t really cost GM that much. In that light, the re-opening of Spring Hill makes a lot of sense. It’s considered one of GM’s better, more modern plants, and it gives the UAW a bastion in Tennessee, where Nissan and Volkswagen both have new, non-union plants. The problem: unless the union was able to negotiate an entry-level wage hike, new hires at Spring Hill will make less than many of their non-union counterparts [sub] at VW Chattanooga and Nissan Smyrna. At that point, having a UAW plant in the South doesn’t especially help the union’s cause.

Caught between bailed-out automakers that it can’t be too aggressive with and non-union workers who show no signs of wanting or needing representation, this agreement doesn’t change the UAW’s basic predicament. We’ll see what the final details look like when the locals approve the deal, but it might not be too early to say that Detroit’s automakers will have four relatively easy years on this contract.

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  • Cheezeweggie Cheezeweggie on Sep 18, 2011

    Does the UAW thinks they can antagonize Nissan in Smyrna via nearby Spring Hill and rally the troops to organize ?

  • Mikey Mikey on Sep 18, 2011

    Its the workers at Nissan that have the final say. I can't see where using antagonizing tactics will contribute to a yes vote.

  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.
  • ToolGuy When you are pulled over for speeding, whether you are given a ticket or not should depend on how attractive you are.Source: My sister 😉