DETROIT (AP) — United Auto Workers union members at General Motors appear poised to approve a new four-year contract with the company.
Workers at two union locals at a huge factory in Lordstown, Ohio, east of Cleveland voted overwhelmingly for of the deal on Friday.
Local President Glenn Johnson says 72 percent of 3,000 workers at the plant that makes the Chevrolet Cruze voted yes. The contract passed by an 1,100-vote margin. Johnson said he's optimistic that's enough to win approval of the national contract.
In addition, 65 percent of 1,400 workers at an adjacent parts stamping plant also voted in favor, said local President Robert Morales.
Voting had been fairly close earlier in the week. Final totals are expected on Saturday. The union will then begin bargaining in earnest with Ford.
Johnson said 90 percent of the workers at his local cast ballots. At the stamping plant, 87 percent voted.
If approved, the four-year contract would cover 52,600 GM factory workers.
Like a previous contract ratified by Fiat Chrysler workers, GM's agreement would eliminate a two-tier wage system over eight years. GM currently pays recent hires around $15.78 per hour. Under the new agreement, workers with four or more years of experience will make the top $29 hourly wage within four years; workers with less experience would make between $22.50 and $28 in four years and top wages in eight years.
UAW President Dennis Williams had promised — and won — richer benefits from GM, which is a bigger and wealthier company than FCA. GM reported last month that it earned $1.36 billion in the third quarter.
Williams said lower-tier workers — who make up 20 percent of GM's hourly workforce — will now be eligible for traditional health care benefits. Both tiers of workers would get an $8,000 signing bonus if they ratify the contract, higher than the $3,000 and $4,000 bonuses offered at FCA. And the profit-sharing formula in GM's proposed agreement promises $1,000 per $1 billion of GM's North American profits. FCA is giving workers $800 based on percentage gains in its North American margins.
GM's proposed contract also offers $60,000 for up to 4,000 eligible employees who agree to retire next spring.