UAW president says GM has agreed to put battery plant workers under union contract


DETROIT —  The United Auto Workers said General Motors has made concessions in talks, agreeing to put EV battery plant workers under the union’s “master agreement” in response to union threats to strike at one of its biggest money-making assembly plants.

The UAW has ratcheted up activity against different automakers each week in its first coordinated strike against General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler parent Stellantis, now entering its fourth week.

“Our strike is working but we’re not there yet,” said President Shawn Fain.

This week, the UAW had considered a strike against GM’s highly profitable Arlington, Texas plant that makes SUVs, before GM’s concessions.

“GM has agreed to lay the foundation for a just transition,” Fain said in his live broadcast, adding the company had “leapfrogged” the pack in negotiations with the UAW.

GM has agreed to place EV battery plants under the master contract between the two. GM has Ultium battery plants in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tenn.

Chrysler owner Stellantis, meanwhile, has agreed to cost-of-living adjustments, he said.

People familiar with the bargaining among the UAW and Detroit automakers said talks have heated up this week after days of little movement.

Fain has kept automakers in suspense as to whether he would order additional plants shut down, or give an automaker a pass because they had offered concessions. So far, the union has ordered walkouts at five assembly plants and 38 parts depots operated by GM and Stellantis.

On Friday, ahead of the updates, he said the fight for better contracts was about more than autoworkers.

“This is the entire working class,” he said at an economic event in Detroit, decrying the lack of benefits for many workers. “It’s shameful where we are as a nation.”

Ford, GM and Stellantis have made new proposals in an effort to end the escalating cycle of walkouts that threaten to undercut profits and cripple smaller suppliers already strained from months of production cuts forced by semiconductor shortages.

The pressure is rising on the three automakers as EV market leader Tesla once again has cut U.S. prices of its Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV, ratcheting up its price war and further pressuring profits on all EV models that are forced to match CEO Elon Musk’s aggressiveness.

Deutsche Bank estimated in a research note on Friday that the hit to operating earnings at GM, Ford and Stellantis from lost production has been $408 million, $250 million and $230 million, respectively.

Ford said its latest wage offer would provide raises in excess of 20% over the life of a contract. Combined with proposed cost-of-living-adjustments, workers could see close to 30% increases in pay, people familiar with the proposal said.

Fain’s Friday video addresses have become must-see events since he launched coordinated strikes at GM, Ford and Stellantis plants shortly after midnight on Sept. 15.

Friday’s afternoon address was a departure from the previous two Fridays in which Fain addressed union members in the morning and ordered walkouts at additional Detroit Three factories to start at noon.

Fain passed over Ford on the Friday that he called for strikes against parts depots.

Last Friday, Fain called off a strike planned at a Stellantis assembly plant after the automaker delivered new proposals minutes before the scheduled start of his talk.

Friday’s monthly U.S. jobs report showed no effect from the strike, likely because it started too late in September to be captured in government surveys, but it could affect October’s report if the walkout extends to next week, when the Labor Department does its survey for the next release.

In other labor talks involving the Detroit Three, the union representing hourly workers in Canada, Unifor, faces an 1159 pm ET deadline on Monday to reach a new deal with GM. Unifor represents about 4,300 workers at GM covered by these talks.

Unifor closed a deal with Ford last month, although it barely passed with 54% of members voting in favor.

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