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GM to invest $1.5 billion in Wentzville plant, if union approves contract

GM to invest $1.5 billion in Wentzville plant, if union approves contract


WENTZVILLE — General Motors has committed to making a $1.5 billion investment in the company's assembly plant here as part of the contract it has proposed to union members in an effort to end their five-week strike.

The facility makes the popular Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks, as well as full-size vans. Under the agreement, if passed, the Wentzville plant would make the "next generation" of GM's midsize pickup trucks, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

The agreement also says the investment promises the retention of 2,000 hourly jobs at the Wentzville plant for at least four years, the term of the contract. The facility employs 4,000 hourly workers. 

A GM spokesperson said the company was not prepared to discuss the proposal. But one United Auto Workers official, Wentzville chapter President Glenn Kage, was hopeful.

"I do believe this is a step in the right direction," Kage said.

Companies don't often negotiate their investments with their unions, said Matthew Bodie, a professor at the St. Louis University School of Law. GM's tactics here show the stakes of this deal. Bank of America estimated GM lost $2 billion in the first four weeks of the strike. 

"GM doesn't have to bargain about where it's investing its money," Bodie said. "There's a lot of pressure on both sides to come up with solutions." 

Missouri lawmakers have already committed to tax breaks for GM, which could include employment assurances.

In July, Gov. Mike Parson signed a package of subsidies and workforce development proposals that included tax credits for the company. Under the plan, GM would get up to $5 million each year over a 10-year period, as long as the company invests at least $750 million in the Wentzville assembly plant.

Under the legislation, the Missouri Department of Economic Development is authorized to include a job retention figure, which could be higher than the 2,000 employees the company has guaranteed in the proposed union contract, staff said.

The proposed union contract obtained on Tuesday promises investments of $7.7 billion in at least five of its U.S. plants: It includes $3 billion to the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, which employs about 800 in Michigan; $1 billion to split between the Spring Hill Assembly plant in Tennessee and Michigan's Lansing Delta Township facility; $200 million to a plant in Warren, Michigan; plus $2 billion in U.S. plant refurbishments.

GM employees across the country are voting this week on whether to ratify the tentative agreement. If approved, the vote would end a strike of 49,000 workers.

On Tuesday the tentative agreement was rejected by the Spring Hill assembly plant. Results posted by the UAW Local 1853 there showed that the measure failed by a narrow margin, 49% in favor and 51% opposed.

Other chapters have come out in favor of the agreement by wide margins.

UAW Local 14, which represents employees in Toledo, announced that 80% of its members approved the agreement. The Toledo plant employs about 1,700.

GM workers in Saginaw, Michigan, also overwhelmingly voted to approve the agreement: 73% of skilled trades workers passed it as did 75% of production workers.

Union chapters have scheduled their voting at various times throughout the week. GM workers in Wentzville can begin voting Wednesday at midnight, and must cast their ballots by 6 p.m. Thursday.

Local chapters are holding informational meetings, where UAW representatives explain the agreement and answer members' questions.

Kage, Wentzville's UAW president, said the chapter will hold informational meetings Wednesday, where "the intent of the language that was negotiated will be made clear to the membership."

Kurt Erickson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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