At UAW Local 22, Relief the Walkout Has Ended

Members of the United Auto Workers' Local 22 in downtown Detroit will soon be back at work after a deal is reached to end a brief national strike against General Motors.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's Jason Beaubien is also in Detroit. He joins us now from outside Local 22 downtown, where he's been talking to union members.

Good morning.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And what are you hearing from the rank-and-file there? Are they likely to ratify this deal?

BEAUBIEN: I'm been hearing a sense of relief that this strike is over, certainly from the people who were down here this morning. They all are expected to ratify this. These are union supporters. These are people who came down to the union hall after hearing about this. People aren't going back to work until this afternoon. The morning shift, they're not expected to get into the plants.

But I have to say at times it's been a little a bit tense out on some of the picket lines. It was really nice to walk into the union hall this morning and people are laughing and joking and very happy to see a reporter. The mood here is very much one of relief and happiness that it seems like a compromise has been reached and this deal is done.

MONTAGNE: What do they like especially about this deal? Items have been, you know, points of real contention and, you know, they certainly know all about them.

BEAUBIEN: Well, I should point out that union workers, also people in the media, have not seen the physical contract; the details are not really out there yet. That will be given to the union workers later when they get to the point where they start looking at ratifying it. So at the moment, people just have the very broad outlines of what the UAW and GM said in the statements that they made earlier this morning.

People basically are just happy that it looks like this is not going to turn into a disastrous strike that could cost them their jobs, could make them have to go months without pay. That seems to be the sense right at the moment.

MONTAGNE: Of course, the issues, you know, have been on the table - health care, the concerns about the future for retirees, job security. Of those things, are they commenting on what they particularly are interested in?

BEAUBIEN: Certainly people in the union wanted to make sure that retirees were taken care of. This was a promise that was made to people; they felt very much that they wanted that to be taken care of. And this health care plan seems like it's going to do that, as well as for themselves. They want to make sure that they have health care. So they seemed happy that some deals are going to be worked out. You know, because if GM eventually just went under, they were going to lose all of that. So people are happy to see that there's going to be a guarantee, that there's going to be this pot of money to provide health care for retirees.

This could turn out to be a problem down the road in that people walked out under the impression that this wasn't about health care, that the health care issue had been resolved, and that this was about job security. And very little has been said about what exactly the guarantees are that GM is offering, or even if GM has made guarantees that they will guarantee jobs at American plants for new products. And that was something that people felt was really important and that was why they were told they were going out on strike.

So those details will come out in the coming hours, the coming days, and that's really what's, I think, going to push people one way or another as to whether they're going to vote to ratify this contract.

MONTAGNE: Now, are the union members that you're talking about there surprised that this strike ended so quickly?

BEAUBIEN: Some people are surprised and certainly, given the people that I've talked to over the last couple of days, I think many people that I talked to expected that this was going to be a long strike. They didn't feel like the union would ask them to go out on the street unless they were really far apart, the union and GM were really far apart. And people said it would be quite surprising to see them come back this early and reach a deal. But apparently they have. People this morning, you know, as I've said before, just seemed relieved that the deal is done.

MONTAGNE: Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Jason Beaubien reporting from UAW Local 22 in downtown Detroit.

Recapping the news, the United Auto Workers and General Motors have reached a tentative contract agreement. The union has ended its nationwide strike, and GM employees are returning to work.

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