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UAW workers at major Ford and GM truck plants vote 'no' on record contract deals

Workers form a picket line outside the Ford Motor Co. Kentucky Truck Plant in the early morning hours on October 12, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. This week, a majority of workers at the plant voted no on the tentative contract deal.
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Workers form a picket line outside the Ford Motor Co. Kentucky Truck Plant in the early morning hours on October 12, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. This week, a majority of workers at the plant voted no on the tentative contract deal.

Autoworkers at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Ky., voted no on the contract agreement reached by the United Auto Workers union.

According to vote trackers on the UAW's website, 54.5% of the 4,118 ballots cast in Kentucky — Ford's largest plant — were no votes, the results showed Monday. The plant, which builds Ford's F-Series Super Duty pickup trucks among other models, is estimated to employ 8,700 workers.

This indicates that the road ahead for the UAW may not be as smooth as union leadership had hoped for, after reaching record agreements with all three major automakers following a six-week auto strike.

GM workers in Flint also voted no

This comes after another loss last week, when 52% of the 3,425 ballots cast at General Motors' Flint Assembly plant were also no votes. Roughly 4,700 workers at that plant build Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

By most measures, the contracts have been generous. They provide workers with a 25% wage increase and in some cases more by 2027, cost of living allowances and improved retirement contributions.

But even with those historic gains, they don't bring workers back to where they were before 2007, when wages and benefits were slashed amid tough economic times.

Most workers must vote in favor

Only by 2027, will the top wage at each of the Big 3 reach where it was 20 years ago, when adjusted for inflation, and none of the carmakers conceded to the union's demands to bring back pensions and retiree health care.

"There were a lot of gains," says Kentucky Truck Plant worker Jenn Thompson, who voted no. "But there were just a few things that I would have liked to have seen in this contract that didn't make it," including retiree health care.

Despite these setbacks, a majority of the union members overall still support the contracts, with about 10,000 ballots cast so far at GM and 25,000 at Ford.

A majority of workers at each of the Big 3 must vote in favor of ratifying the contracts for them to take effect. UAW President Shawn Fain has repeatedly called the workers the union's highest authority.

Should any of the contracts fail to reach a majority of yes votes, negotiators would have to return to the bargaining table.

Finally tallies at the Big 3 automakers are expected this week and next.

-- Louisville Public Media reporter Jacob Munoz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Andrea Hsu
Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.