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GM strikers to picket until contract vote

In this September file photo, a picketer carries sign at one of the gates outside the closed General Motors automobile assembly plant in Lordstown. A tentative four year contract with striking General Motors gives workers a mix of pay raises, lump sum payments and an $11,000 signing bonus. In return, the contract allows GM to proceed with factory closures in Lordstown, Warren, Mich., and near Baltimore. (AP Photo)

DETROIT (AP) — Striking General Motors workers will stay on the picket lines for at least another week until they vote on a tentative contract with the company.

Factory-level officials from the United Auto Workers union voted to recommend the agreement to members at a daylong meeting in Detroit Thursday. But they also voted not to return to factories unless members approve the deal.

About 49,000 workers have been on strike for more than a month, paralyzing GM’s U.S. factories and costing the company an estimated $2 billion.

On Wednesday, the company and the UAW reached a deal that would give workers a mix of pay raises, lump sum payments and an $11,000 signing bonus. In return, the contract allows GM to proceed with factory closures in Lordstown, Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and near Baltimore.

Details on the four-year pact were posted Thursday on the UAW website as factory level union officials met to decide if they’ll approve the deal. Workers went on strike Sept. 16, crippling the company’s U.S. production and costing it an estimated $2 billion.

The Detroit Hamtramck plant, which GM wanted to close, will stay open and a new electric pickup truck will be built there. Meanwhile, the Lordstown area will get a new battery factory that is expected to employ 1,000 workers. In addition, a company called Lordstown Motors could also set up an electric commercial vehicle factory that would initially employ 400 workers. But neither of those would come close to the shuttered Lordstown assembly plant, which two years ago employed 4,500 people making the Chevrolet Cruze compact car.

The deal shortens the eight years it takes for new hires to reach full wages and gives temporary workers a full-time job after three years of continuous work. Workers hired after 2007 who are paid a lower wage rate will hit the top wage of $32.32 per hour in four years or less. The deal also provides a $60,000 early retirement incentive for up to 2,000 eligible workers.

The tentative agreement between GM and the UAW now will be used as a template for talks with GM’s crosstown rivals, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Normally the major provisions carry over to the other two companies and cover about 140,000 auto workers nationwide. The union hasn’t decided yet which company it will bargain with next, and it’s not clear if there will be another strike.

The local union officials met for about six hours Thursday before reaching their decisions. Dan Morgan, the bargaining chairman at the Lordstown assembly plant, made an unsuccessful plea to hold out so GM would build another vehicle there.

“We’re extremely disappointed that we didn’t get a product out of the contract,” said Tim O’Hara, the Lordstown local’s president. “I think a lot of people in the room realized what happened to us can happen to anybody.”

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