General Motors workers in Parma have mixed feelings about new contract

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PARMA, Ohio– It’s back to work for nearly a thousand General Motors workers in Parma. After five weeks on the picket line, striking employees agreed to a new contract. Fifty-seven percent of United Auto Workers members across the country voted for the four-year agreement.

Striking workers in Parma packed away their picket signs Friday evening, soon after learning the UAW ratified a new contract with GM.

“Our members are split… Half are angry about it and I believe half of the people that voted for it are still angry because they didn’t like it, didn’t think we’d get more staying out,” said Al Tiller, shop chairman for UAW Local 1005.

About 950 GM employees at the Parma Metal Center were among 49,000 nationwide that hit the picket line on Sept. 16 and stayed on strike for 40 days.

In Parma, the margin of approval was slimmer than it was nationwide, passing 52 to 48 percent.

“In situations like this, you’re gonna have happy ones and unhappy ones,” said GM worker Mike Crose.

“We just want what’s ours, what’s fair and what’s owed to us,” said GM worker Maria Ott.

Under the new agreement, there are a mix of wage increases and lump-sum payments. Most veteran workers will see a 6  percent pay increase to about $32 an hour. Each worker will receive an $11,000 signing bonus. Employees will not have to pay a larger share of their health care as the company had wanted.

“Good language for the money, we make good wages… Health care was left alone, but, down the road, it’s hard here when the plants close and nothing happens,” Tiller said.

The union shop chairman said a big sticking point for some workers was GM’s refusal to reopen three assembly plants, including the shuttered factory in Lordstown. The company also refused to shift some of its production from Mexico back to the U.S.

“They basically closed three plants mid-contract with no consequences, they refused to put product in the United States, they’re the largest car manufacturer in Mexico and they want to keep it that way…. It’s been a long strike, we were prepared to go longer, but now we’re prepared to go back in and finish the fight inside,” said Tiller.

UAW leaders said regular production at the Parma plant will resume with Sunday night’s third shift. Any members requested by management to return before then, can go back to work on a voluntary basis.

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