Members of Bowling Green’s United Auto Workers Local 2164 will head to the ballot box on Wednesday to say “yes” or “no” to a new contract with General Motors.
The nearly 1,300 Corvette Assembly Plant workers are part of about 50,000 other union members at 55 locations who have been on strike against GM since Sept. 16. Whether the longest strike against GM since 1970 ends and workers start returning to the assembly line should be known by Friday.
The vote could be good news for Corvette enthusiasts who are eager for production of the highly anticipated eighth-generation mid-engine Stingray to begin.
“With the amount of time we’ve been out and some of the stuff we got from GM, I think it’ll pass by about 70 percent,” Local 2164 President Jack Bowers told the Bowling Green Daily News Monday. “I’m not trying to sell it. If it’s good for you, vote yes. If it’s not, vote no.”
Union members saw the proposed deal on Sunday, and Bowers says employees received the information they need to make “an informed decision.”
Pointing to the “give and take” in the negotiations, Bowers likes what the union would be getting.
Under the 2015 deal, “in-progression” workers had to wait eight years to reach top pay. The new deal will allow those workers to hit the top pay of $32.32 per hour in half that time.
“At the end of the (four-year) contract, everybody will be at the same wage level,” Bowers said. “And it’s a great wage level.”
Workers also keep the current lucrative health insurance plan and will receive a ratification bonus of $11,000 for seniority employees and $4,500 for temporary workers. Merry Christmas!
One 22-year veteran of GM, Heidi Johnson, isn’t sure if the contract will be approved, though. “Not everybody is happy,” she said to a Daily News reporter while volunteering in the union hall’s kitchen Monday.
Johnson does believe the strike has had a positive effect on the union.
“This strike, like a natural disaster that brings the community together, only makes you stronger,” she said. “The solidarity has been great, and I’ve gotten to know my fellow workers better, even those who have transferred in from other plants.”
Approval won’t mean mid-engine Corvettes will start being assembled immediately, though.
New workers who are transferring in from other GM locations to help with the overwhelming demand for the C8 will have to be trained, and a new two-shift work schedule will have to be organized by management. Oh, and several hundred of the last C7s still have to be produced, too.
But, at least there is hope for everyone involved.
As Johnson put it: “Everybody wants to get back in a routine. We’ve been out long enough. It’s time to go back to work.”
Bowling Green Daily News
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