'The people have spoken': Spring Hill UAW members moving off picket lines after union, GM ratify contract

United Auto Workers at the Spring Hill General Motors to come off the picket lines after national UAW leaders announced an agreement had been reached and the six-week strike concluded.

"Everybody is happy that the strike occurred, because it meant they stood up for what everybody believed in. That was critical," Spring Hill UAW bargaining chairman Mike Herron said.

The UAW said it ratified a new four-year contract with GM. The declaration came after the voting ended.

“General Motors members have spoken,” said Terry Dittes, UAW Vice President and Director of the UAW-GM Department. “We are all so incredibly proud of UAW-GM members who captured the hearts and minds of a nation. Their sacrifice and courageous stand addressed the two-tier wages structure and permanent temporary worker classification that has plagued working class Americans.”

On announcing the ratification and end to the strike, UAW said 23,389 members voted yes and 17,501 voted no on the proposed contract.

Among those who voted against the contract were the 3,300 UAW members in Spring Hill.

"Our intent was to give them the full contract, let them read it and them make their own determinations. I'm proud of our members for thoroughly researching the agreement and voting with their conscience," Herron said.

He said that even though Spring Hill voted against the contract, he remained proud of every UAW member nationwide.

The UAW said workers will return to work as instructed by GM. The union also announced the next pattern bargaining company will be Ford.

GM confirmed the contract ratification. It said it delivered a contract that recognizes employees for the important contributions they make to the company's success with a strong wage and benefit package, along with additional investment and job growth in U.S. operations.

The vote came on the heels of a vigil held outside the Spring Hill UAW hall, where hundreds gathered to remember Roy McCombs, a picketer killed when he was struck by a car. The incident happened Tuesday morning as McCombs attempted to cross the road near the picket lines.

Herron said the closeness of the two events was "extremely emotional."

"There was an outpouring of love and support from the members in Spring Hill," he said. "I know the family was just overwhelmed with support and they could see how much Roy was loved by his teammates, by this family."

All strikers were being pulled off the lines Herron said.

"We're not keeping them out there one minute longer than we have to — they've done a fantastic job. The people have spoken. We're asking everybody to remain as unified as they were going into this," he said. "It's important."

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Mariah Timms

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Published October 29, 2019