UAW members begin voting this week

TOLEDO, DEFIANCE -- Ratification voting for the UAW/GM contract will begin this week or next in Toledo and Defiance. Nationwide voting must be completed by October 10.

On Friday, UAW leadership unanimously approved General Motor's proposed four-year contract. The deal, which must be ratified by a majority of the workers, includes a signing bonus, a union-run retirement health fund, a new round of voluntary buyouts for workers and lower wages for new hires.

Union leaders met with members this weekend to go over the deal in detail. The contract next goes before all 74,000 workers, who will vote on it this week. UAW president Ron Gettelfinger says he expects it to pass.

The UAW begins contract negotiations with Ford and Chrysler this week.

Auto workers went on strike for two days until this agreement could be reached. The deal that ended the walkout has GM moving its retiree health care costs into a trust run by the union.

GM wins the right to pay new workers less money -- some say $12 to $15 an hour for jobs not directly related to building a vehicle. The current hourly worker makes $28 an hour.

The union gets 4,100 temporary workers hired permanently but paid at the lower rate. There are no raises in base pay, but the workers will have no increases in medical premiums.

Employees get $3,000 bonuses when the contract passes and then lump sum annual payments -- 3 to 4 percent in the last three years of the deal. The union says it got the job security guarantees it wanted, apparently winning commitments from GM to invest in U.S. plants.

News 11's Tim Miller found workers happy to be back on the job and anxious about what's in the contract.

The strike signs were tossed to the ground in Defiance and Toledo -- the burn barrels gone with only the burn marks left behind. And the familiar convoy of vehicles was back, arriving for the start of the second shift Wednesday afternoon.

A lot of relieved workers said they are happy to be off the picket lines.

"It feels good, yeah, feels good. I'm glad it's over with because it wouldn't be nothing but bad things for everybody, you know," said Keith Hackworth, a GM Powertrain worker.

The workers have heard one apparent provision of the contract: They stand to get a $3,000 signing bonus.

"It sounds good, but what are you giving for that $3,000 signing bonus? I've been there 37 years," queried John Dickens, a GM Powertrain workers.

"I will kind of believe it when I see it. But I hope that's what it is, that sounds good you know!" Hackworth said.

Others say they want to know more details. "It was good to get back to work, just got to not listen to so many rumors and wait and see what our union reps tell us," said Wayne Watts.

Indeed, learning what they're getting -- and possibly giving up -- before they vote on the new contract over the weekend is vitally important to these workers.

Updated by LS