FLINT, Mich. - The vote by a UAW local in Flint pushes the tentative agreement with General Motors closer to ratification, but whether the almost six-week-old nationwide strike against the automaker will end is still not likely to be clear until Friday.
UAW Local 598, which represents an estimated 4,800 workers at Flint Assembly, passed the agreement overwhelmingly Wednesday, on a total vote of 60.9% in favor to 39.1% against. Actual vote totals were not available.
The local posted a thank-you statement on its Facebook page after the vote.
"Thank you to all of our volunteers, your time and commitment has been and continues to be outstanding and so appreciated. To all of the members for your unwavering strength to hold that line in solidarity, day and night. Through the rain, wind and cold, which we will continue to do until we hear further. We are 598 and we will always fight for what is right for all," according to part of the note.
The results of the Flint vote are significant in large part because of the size of the membership. Both production workers and skilled trades passed the measure, although skilled trades was higher at almost 69% in favor.
Because ratification requires a simple majority of the total vote, it's not essential for each local to pass the agreement. And with other large locals in Arlington, Texas, and Ft. Wayne, Indiana, still to record their results, the final tally remains unclear. Local 1853, which represents 3,300 workers in Spring Hill, Tennessee, for instance, voted down the agreement.
"It's looking like it's trending toward it being ratified, but you get wild swings," said Art Wheaton, a director at the Worker Institute at Cornell University.
Automotive News, which has kept a running tally of the results released by the locals, put the overall vote Thursday afternoon at 57.8% in favor to 42.2% against, but those percentages represent only a fraction of the total. The UAW International expects to have a final tally after the 4 p.m. vote deadline Friday.
Wheaton said that passage or rejection by individual locals could have an impact on those that vote later on, but other issues are at play.
Individual facilities with lots of workers who might have had to transfer from other GM plants - Spring Hill, might be an example - could see a bit more negativity from the membership. Plants that appear to offer a fair amount of job security because of investment - Flint, for instance - might see a positive vote, Wheaton said.
"It kind of depends how vulnerable you see your job or your plant," Wheaton said. "Flint seems to have more investment. (They're) not quite as worried about their job security so they overwhelmingly approved it."
At locals in Lordstown, Ohio, and the transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and the Baltimore area where facilities are closing, Wheaton said he expects the agreement to "get hammered."
If the results look to be close, expect intense lobbying at the remaining plants, Wheaton said.
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