UAW national negotiators announce proposed tentative agreement with General Motors

by Richard Ward

After five weeks of intense negotiations, today in an official announcement in Detroit, the UAW GM national negotiators and UAW GM Vice President Terry Dittes announced the achievement of a proposed tentative agreement with General Motors.

The elected national negotiators voted to recommend the UAW GM National Council accept the proposed tentative agreement as the agreement represents major gains for UAW workers.

Details of the tentative agreement were not disclosed. The strike was called just one month and a day ago on Sept, 15. UAW Local 31 members have maintained a strike line around the clock since then.

The striking workers at the Fairfax Assembly Plant have received encouragement and support from several local politicians and civic groups. Strike benefits were recently increased from $250 a week to $275.

“The number one priority of the national negotiation team has been to secure a strong and fair contract that our members deserve,” said UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, director of the UAW GM Department. “Out of respect for our members, we will refrain from commenting on the details until the UAW GM leaders gather together and receive all details.

“We are extremely grateful to the thousands of Americans who donated goods and helped our striking workers and their families. As we await the council’s decision, please know that the outpouring of community and national support will be etched in the memories of all of us at the UAW for years to come,” Dittes said.

“The dignity, grace, and solidarity demonstrated by our members during the last few weeks are prime examples of what this union is all about — supporting one another in the good and bad times and never giving up,” UAW President Gary Jones said.

“Our more than 48,000 members standing their ground have captured the hearts and minds of people across this country. I could not be prouder of our brothers and sisters, our national negotiators, and the National Council as they continue to fight one day longer to secure the best deal for our members,” Jones said.

On Sept. 15, the UAW GM National Council voted to strike. The UAW GM National Council will meet and review details on Oct. 17, 2019, in a private meeting, at which time they will vote on whether to recommend it to the full UAW-GM membership for ratification.

According to the UAW statement, until the council reviews and votes to approve the proposed tentative agreement the strike will continue. During the Oct. 17 meeting, the council will decide whether to continue the strike until ratification concludes or to stop the strike at the time of the council’s approval of the agreement.

Once the UAW National GM Council votes to approve the proposed tentative agreement, the contract language will become a tentative agreement and shared with the full membership.

Ultimately, the agreement will not be ratified until UAW-GM membership across the U.S. votes to approve it.

Solidarity is key for UAW Local 31 strike at GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant

This sign said it all: solidarity is a key word for UAW members. This entrance sign to the Local 31 parking lot prohibits foreign vehicles. The lot was full of U.S.-made vehicles and only a few offenders were parked across the road. (Staff photo)

by Richard Ward

“We’re just asking to get back what we gave up in 2008,” said Clarence “C.B.” Brown, president of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 31. “Two groups stepped forward to save General Motors when they were crashing in 2008. The unions made major labor concessions and the American taxpayers provided bailout funds. We’re on strike now to get GM to live up to their obligations to both the workers and the public that made their continued existence possible.”

The UAW strike against GM began at midnight Saturday, Sept. 14, when their 4-year contract expired without an agreement on the major differences in a new 4-year contract. The UAW represents nearly 50,000 workers at manufacturing and assembly plants in the United States for GM. Ford and Fiat-Chrysler. The union decided to begin negotiations with GM and use an agreement with the company as a model for future talks with the other two.

Local 31 president Clarence “C.B.” Brown, right, provided last-minute updates to a departing truck load of UAW members to the picket line at the Fairfax Assembly Plant. (Staff photo)

Brown continued, “Sometimes people think strikes are just about more wages for employees. But, there’s more at stake this time than just salaries. We don’t want to be on strike, we want to be working so that we can continue to provide financial support to the communities where we live by spending those wages in the local economy.”

In an interview at the union’s local office, 500 Kindelberger Road in Kansas City, Kansas, Brown also expressed his appreciation for the outpouring of support from the local community. He said the key to quickly settling the strike is solidarity.

“When our members ask me ‘How long will we strike?’ I can only say I hope it’s just a few days, but if it’s a few months, then we’re in it for the duration,” he said. “With help from our supporters, we have to plan for an uncertain future.”

Shelly Taylor, left, and Melissa Freeman, took a lunch break from the picket line at UAW Local 31’s headquarters. The facility is the central location for workers walking the picket line around the clock, 24/7. (Staff photo)

“We’re receiving donations for our pantry and strike fund from family members and relatives of our workers. People in the Wyandotte community and outlying neighborhoods are helping lend a hand, too. Members of other unions in the area have stepped up and are joining us on our picket line at the Fairfax plant,” he said.

Workers who staff the picket line, checked in and checked out for shifts inside the Local 31 offices at 500 Kindelberger Road in KCK. (Staff photo)

“Our members who were working the plant’s third shift clocked out at 11:59 p.m. and immediately checked in to the picket line that was forming when the GM contract expired at 12 midnight,” he said.

Administration, information and policy discussions for Local 31 required never-ending coordination by staff inside the management offices of the union. (Staff photo)

According to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, in an internal advisory letter to the UAW membership on Sept 5, the union is seeking a range of concessions including those related to wages, classification of workers, closing of plants and health care.

GM wants employees to pay a greater portion of their health care costs, and to increase work force productivity and flexibility in factories.

According to reports in the Detroit Free Press, “the company has been earning substantial profits in North America — and it made $8.1 billion globally last year — it has idled three plants in the United States as car sales slide and overall demand for vehicles weakens.”

The Local 31 parking lot was filled with U.S.-made cars and trucks loading workers for the picket line. (Staff photo)

Effort to outpace poverty gets Bishop Miege’s Tim Grunard as honorary chair

Poverty in Kansas City has a new opponent, Tim Grunard, one of Kansas City’s best known football players. Grunard will serve as honorary chair for Outpace Poverty, a 5K walk event at Liberty Memorial on June 21. Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph is the event sponsor.
Grunard is currently offensive line coach at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, where he also coached after retiring from the NFL in 2000. He coached the offensive line for two seasons at the University of Kansas. Grunard played center for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1990-2000,
“Tim is a natural fit for us and for Outpace Poverty,” said Vincent Anch, Catholic Charities Foundation Executive Director. “He is all about family and community and so are we. We’re grateful he’s supporting our work – empowering families and people from all walks of life to find a way out of poverty – at such a great summer event.”