Contract worries are only half over for workers at the Shreveport General Motors plant. The local contract between G.M. and its workers expired back on September 14th. Everyone is being very tight-lipped about current negotiations, not wanting to jeopardize any deal. Sources tell KSLA News 12 that talks center around, among other things, working conditions and over-loaded jobs.
But on this day, the focus was squarely on the national agreement. Some of the nearly two thousand hourly G.M. workers, with the United Auto Workers Local 2166, began tearing down and packing up from the picket site after word came that a deal had finally been reached. "When I got into the hall this morning at 3-O'clock and told me we had a tentative agreement and I was very excited," recalled Vince Gallegus.
He's just one of the many members of the UAW Local 2166 who picked-up a sign and went on strike for a struggle he feels was not well understood. "Sitting at home listening to the media and being so negative towards the labor movement, and everyone was so much for G.M.'s side and we settled so fast it was a big relief."
Workers at the Shreveport plant help put together Hummers along with Colorado and Canyon pickup trucks. Their wages may stay the same under the terms of the new contract, but workers will be given a bonus of 3-thousand dollars upon ratification of the deal nationally. The bonuses don't end there. They also receive a 3-percent, 4-percent and 3-percent bonus of their annual pay each year for the last three years of the contract.
UAW Local 2166 President Morgan Johnson had one message for rank and file members: "We want to thank all our employees for supporting the cause." And, while there appears to be agreement, at the moment nationally, on the local level the fate of a contract with Shreveport G.M. workers is in limbo.
Attention will likely soon return to the local contract. When it does, some expect that fears might resurface about any future cutbacks at the Shreveport plant and what that would mean for those who remain. "And you got an old workforce, older, much older workforce and they kind of require people to do a lot of things that physically they can't really do. It's hard enough to do what they're doing now," lamented union member Derrell Daniels.
Local union leaders will be flying to Detroit, Michigan on Thursday to get their first look at the national agreement. And, Johnson tells KSLA News 12 that he'll have much more to say after he returns late Friday night.Story by Jeff Ferrell