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UAW reaches a tentative deal with Chrysler, expands strike at General Motors

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We begin this hour with an update on the auto union strikes. The United Auto Workers and Chrysler's parent company say they have reached a tentative deal. Here's UAW President Shawn Fain.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAWN FAIN: On day 44 of our stand-up strike, I am honored to announce that our union is again victorious.

RASCOE: But at General Motors, the strike actually expanded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Eighteen fifty-three, stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Eighteen fifty-three, stand up. It's our time. We're clearing out powertrain. We're walking out now.

RASCOE: That's a union representative walking out of GM's plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. NPR's Camila Domonoske is here with us with the latest. Good morning, Camila.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So let's start with this latest deal. Did the union get what they want?

DOMONOSKE: They got a lot. This deal with Chrysler's parent company Stellantis, it's very similar to a deal the union just struck with Ford this week, which was widely regarded as a win for the union. So it includes a 25% raise over the 4-1/2-year contract, plus, on top of that, cost-of-living increases that are tied to inflation, an even bigger pay boost for newer employees and temps, the right to strike plant closures. And then at Stellantis specifically, they'll be reopening this closed plant in Belvidere, Ill. It'll be making a midsize truck. It'll also get a battery plant. And bringing this idled plant back was a really big deal to the union and to a lot of workers. It means thousands of jobs, right?

Now, of course, the union didn't get everything. And on the list of what they didn't get, for instance, they wanted pensions back for all employees, which was a really big ask and didn't happen. We don't know the full details of these contracts yet, so it's not clear what else they might have yielded onto.

RASCOE: Does this mean the strike is over at those companies?

DOMONOSKE: Workers are going back to production lines at Ford and Stellantis while they vote on these deals. That's actually unusual, to go back to work while it's still tentative, and important to emphasize - this is not a done deal, right? The union needs to send it out to the membership for a vote. The members get to decide if it's good enough or not, and this is not like a rubber-stamped formality situation. This - earlier this month, Mack Trucks, separately organized by the UAW under a different contract, had a tentative deal, and members rejected it. So they're back at the table.

RASCOE: Let's turn to GM, where it's a very different story. What's happening there?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. GM does not have a deal with the UAW right now, and they're under a lot of pressure to reach one, clearly. I mean, you've got more GM workers going out on strike right as these Ford and Stellantis workers are going back to work. This surprise expansion hit GM's Spring Hill plant in Tennessee, which is a big blow for a couple of reasons. One - it is a really big plant. It's the largest in North America for GM. It makes Cadillacs and the GMC Acadia, high-margin vehicles. It also builds engines that go to other plants - so big ripple effects here. GM said they are disappointed by the move, a word the union also used to describe GM's talks with the union. GM says their goal is to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.

RASCOE: The strike started more than six weeks ago. How damaging has it been?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah, it depends who you're talking about. You know, workers getting $500 weekly strike pay instead of pay - that's hard. But obviously, it's short-term pain for, hopefully, this longer-term gain, right? If you're talking about car shoppers - not that affected, really. There were a lot of cars on lots heading into the strike, a lot of nonunionized car companies selling plenty of cars. But for these three companies in particular - big cost. GM tallied it at 800 million. Ford added it up to $1.3 billion lost to these strikes, so obviously a big incentive to strike these deals here.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Camila Domonoske. Thank you so much.

DOMONOSKE: Thank you, Ayesha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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