Potential ratification challenges – the UAW leadership should begin managing the expectations of their GM members now

GM – UAW Negotiations Update

The Automotive News recently published an excellent article titled “A lengthy strike adds to ratification challenges” and the link is https://www.autonews.com/manufacturing/lengthy-strike-adds-ratification-challenges.

The opening paragraph of the article says “The contract offer that General Motors made public just before the UAW went on strike effectively set the minimum for what workers expect from the automaker. But the longer the strike has dragged on, the more expectations have grown.”  In general, I agree with this assertion but here is where I think the risk lies. I suspect that the economic highlights of GM’s offer were linked directly to other contract elements. My guess is that the offer to the UAW was far more comprehensive than illustrated publicly given the magnitude of the new economics (i.e., $8,000 signing bonus, wage increases or lump sum payments in all four years, improved profit-sharing).  I would suggest that this generous level of new economics was contingent upon the UAW agreeing to some level of cost offsets relative to items such as healthcare cost share and/or the expanded utilization of temporary workers, two of the key issues that appear to be holding up an agreement. Accordingly, unless the parties can come to a mutual understanding with respect to these two key issues, I would suggest that it is risky for UAW members to assume that the economic offer from GM will improve, let alone remain intact, even after striking for at least two weeks. Therefore, it may be prudent for the UAW leadership to begin managing the expectations of their members as soon as possible.

I would also like to share my thoughts about ratification.  It sounds like the UAW is contemplating keeping their GM members out on strike until ratification is complete.  I really don’t understand this tactic. If GM and the UAW leadership can reach a tentative agreement, then why subject GM’s UAW members to at least another week of lost pay? I think that it sends a bad message – it almost suggests that the UAW leadership may lack confidence in any tentative agreement that they may be willing to put to a vote.  Finally, the article states that “The union will find out what effect an ongoing federal corruption probe may have on the process, as workers could vote down a deal in retaliation against its leadership.” I sincerely hope that UAW members do not hurt themselves or others by voting down a good contract, simply out of frustration with their leadership. As an alternative, many UAW members are employed in Right To Work states, so if they really want to get their UAW leadership’s attention, they could consider holding back on their payment of union dues until they are satisfied with the organization.

Let’s hope that GM and the UAW can negotiate a responsible agreement soon.

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