BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE
MICHIGAN—A little over a week after ratifying contracts with the Detroit Three automakers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union announced on Tuesday it had reached a tentative agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and its HMO subsidiary, Blue Care Network.
Approximately 1,300 UAW members have been on strike since Sept. 13—before the strike began against Ford, Stellantis and GM—and will remain on the picket line until ratification of the proposed deal, which includes what the union called “historic wins” including “significant” general wage increases and the reduction of the wage progression from twenty-two years to five, dramatically shortening the time for Blue Cross workers to reach the top of the pay scale.
“Wage progression and job security were concerns that we knew we had to fix during this round of bargaining,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock, who also serves as the director of the union’s Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department. “Twenty-two years to reach top pay is unacceptable. Because of our members’ solidarity on the picket lines and our negotiators’ hard work at the bargaining table, we were able to address many of our demands.”
BCBSM President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp said in a statement that he and UAW President Shawn Fain were able to reach the tentative agreement following several phone calls over the past week.
“President Fain and I have agreed in principle on the construct of a new collective bargaining agreement that would deliver significant income and job security for our unionized workforce,” said Loepp. “On Wednesday, our bargaining teams will meet to formalize our agreement – bringing our employees one step closer to returning to work. I congratulate and thank President Fain for reaching out and working directly with me to get us to the starting line of the ratification process.”
Negotiators were also able to secure stronger contractual language to protect worker jobs from being outsourced during the life of the agreement, a practice that contributed to what the UAW said was a 40% decrease in their membership in the last decade.
“Our members have proven that when workers stick together, they can achieve historical gains at the bargaining table.” said Monk. “There were difficult times during this strike, especially with the cold weather, but our members never gave up hope and they continued to stand with one another for as long as it took to enable our bargaining team to win an equitable contract that our members deserve.”
If ratified, BCBSM workers would get a $6,500 bonus, while Blue Care Network workers would receive a $5,000 bonus and inflation protection bonuses of $1,000 each year of the contract.
In all, four union locals are involved in the strike: Locals 2500 and 1781 out of Detroit, Local 2145 in Grand Rapids and Local 2256 in Lansing.
Meanwhile, MGM Grand Detroit casino workers remain on strike after voting against a proposed deal earlier this month.
The rejection came despite the Detroit Casino Council, which is made up of members from UNITE HERE Local 24, UAW Local 7777, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324 and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, voting Nov. 19 to ratify a new five year contract with Hollywood Casino at Greektown and MotorCity Casino, bringing the 34-day strike to an end at those locations.
The five-year deal provides what the council called the “largest wage increases ever negotiated in the Detroit casino industry’s 23-year history,” which include an immediate $3 an hour raise, averaging out to an 18% wage increase, as well as $5 an hour total raises over the life of the contract. Employees at Hollywood Casino at Greektown and MotorCity Casino will also not have to pay any increased health care costs and will see workload reductions and other job protections.
Approximately 700 of the 1,600 MGM Grand workers reportedly turned down the deal, telling WXYZ-TV that the term of the contract was too long and the $3 an hour upfront pay raise was too small.
“We should at least get $6, or $7 an hour, the first year,” MGM worker Catherine Bilek Roberts told the station.
This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.
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