Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette GM workers man the picket line at the plant in southwest Allen County on Oct. 16. Ratification of a contract last week ended the 40-day walkout.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 1:00 am
A good deal
End of GM strike welcome news for area - and for labor-union supporters
All of northeast Indiana should be relieved to know employees are off the picket line and on the job at Allen County's General Motors pickup truck assembly plant. The 40-day strike brought some solid gains for members of UAW Local 2209, as well as a timely reminder of the value of one of the region's biggest employers.
“We got some more than we were striking for,” first-shift worker Brady Mock told The Journal Gazette's Sherry Slater after he cast a vote in support of the contract offer last week. UAW workers are in line for up to $11,000 in signing bonuses to make up for lost wages, performance bonuses, two 3% annual raises and two 4% lump-sum payments. Workers' share of health care costs will not increase, but GM will close three U.S. factories.
The vote was close in Fort Wayne: 50.8% in support and 49.1% against. Division I workers – all hourly rated employees in the bargaining unit except those in the skilled trades classifications – voted 49.64% in support and 50.35% against the offer. The skilled-trades workers voted 64% in support and 36% against it. Nationally, the union said the contract vote was approved 23,389 to 17,501.
Regular production resumed this past weekend, with those reporting to the Allen County plant on Saturday receiving time-and-a-half wages.
In addition to the 3,800 permanent and 700 temporary workers at the plant, the strike's end relieves uncertainty for workers employed by GM suppliers and vendors. Manufacturing today is built around a just-in-time model that has newly made parts for Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierras arriving within hours of assembly. The model is designed to eliminate the need for warehousing and investing capital in inventory. Locally, Android Industries, Avancez and Ground Effects LLC operate plants supplying GM. Their workers were affected by the strike.
Less apparent but still important was the effect on local spending. UAW members at the striking plants received just $275 a week from the union's strike fund. For young families, in particular, the allowance wouldn't stretch to cover anything beyond necessities. Local businesses inevitably suffered with the strike.
The contract agreement brings a hopeful resolution to the labor standoff. Polls show public opinion on organized labor has improved as the nation's job market tightened. The most recent Gallup survey of confidence in institutions showed unions at their highest approval level in 15 years. The UAW's new agreement with GM is likely to bolster that finding. Without a doubt, it bolsters northeast Indiana's fortunes.