LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – UAW members have approved a contract with General Motors, but it wasn’t a sure vote.

The contract was ratified by 3,400 votes, from a union with 46,000 members.

Early “No” votes in Lansing and Flint, put added pressure on other union workers and the agreement was approved with a 54.7% vote.

Anthony Graham, a member of UAW 1753, talks about the 2023 UAW contract ratification. (WLNS)

Anthony Graham is a member of UAW 1753. That’s the union that represents workers at a parts center in Lansing – and one of the first called on to hit the picket line in September.

“So, we’re hearing the turn downs, but we are not hearing the acceptance,” he said of the scrutiny of contract votes. “So, we are going, like, ‘OK, I mean how are we looking?’ And everyone’s going, ‘Well, we don’t know.’ Then you hear on the news, ‘the contract could be in trouble.’”

He said reactions are mixed among his co-workers in the shop about the approval, but he sees the agreement as a good start.

UAW Local 1753 President Dwight Jackson talking about the ratification of the 2023 UAW contract with GM. (WLNS)

Local UAW 1753 President Dwight Jackson said he understand frustration from senior members in the union who saw major cuts in previous contracts.

“They would love to gain a lot, but to see that the other workers don’t have to go through a lot of the things they had to endure,” Jackson said. “I think that is satisfying for them to see.”

A bitterness from an era of cuts following bankruptcies may have fed some of the ‘No’ votes, says Steven Melnyk, a professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University.

He noted workers during those lean times may have seen the new contract not doing enough to restore benefits and pensions for retirees and senior members.

“They are going to see it as a partial recovery of what they lost,” he said.

Michelle Fecteau is the director of the Center for Labor and Community Studies at the University of Michigan-Deaborn. She echoes Melnyk’s assessment. She said while there was progress for the union. But UAW President Shawn Fain is going to have to explain how the deals were hammered out.  

“He’s going to have to use the communication skills to really explain how things work and how you can’t get everything in one round of negotiations,” Fecteau said of what Fain will face in the coming days.

The UAW strike was not the only major labor dispute in 2023. Fecteau said the momentum witnessed in the actor and writer’s strikes and the contentious battle with UPS, is likely to continue as the labor movement evolves.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-7th) sent out a statement via X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, about the ratification as well.

For six weeks this fall, @UAW auto workers in Michigan and across the country stood in solidarity for better wages, dignity at work, and the American Dream. No deal is ever perfect, but this agreement includes wins for workers in assembly plants and supplier shops — for those members approaching retirement and for the next generation of workers.

By ratifying this deal, UAW workers at GM, Ford, and Stellantis have won some of the most significant gains & protections in the union’s history, benefitting Michigan’s middle class & working people across America.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-7th) via X