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GM Workers Vote to End Their Walkout : Labor: Their decision is overwhelming. The company has promised to hire new help from the ranks of long laid-off union members.

October 02, 1994| From Associated Press

FLINT, Mich. — Striking auto workers who said they were forced to build too many cars with too few people voted overwhelmingly Saturday to end their walkout in exchange for a General Motors promise to hire new workers.

Several thousand workers applauded, cheered and whistled when United Auto Workers leaders explained the deal at an auditorium near the Buick City complex. Employees then voted to accept the offer.

The 11,500 workers who walked out Tuesday build General Motors Corp. cars, but more importantly, they also make transmission and suspension parts used in most GM vehicles. The shutdown at Flint threatened to hamstring GM operations nationwide and by Saturday had forced several plants to close or cut back operations.

GM said it hoped to resume parts production Saturday night and run the plants all day today. If that occurs, the company expects only four plants to be down Monday because of parts shortages.

Under the settlement, GM would hire more than 500 new workers from the ranks of long-laid-off union members whose benefits and callback rights have expired. It could set a pattern for resolving similar disputes over staff size and overtime that threaten to disrupt other GM plants.

"I think in the future you're going to see that solved across the country," Dave Yettaw, president of striking UAW Local 599, told his members at Saturday's session.

UAW Vice President Stephen Yokich said Friday that he and GM President Jack Smith would work together in the next two weeks to try to head off threatened strikes at several other GM plants.

Yokich, who will become the union's president next year, praised Smith for his role.

"Quite frankly, I think (Smith) has worked damn hard to try to keep both of us on an even keel," he said.

If the agreement does set a pattern, it is unclear how it might affect GM's campaign to cut staff and costs. Wall Street analysts have applauded GM for closing plants and eliminating 52,000 hourly employees since 1991.

By Saturday, the strike had caused at least three other GM plants to shut down and four others to cut back their schedules. Three other plants told workers Friday that they should not report for work Monday.

The agreement means work might resume today at Flint, but it will take several days before the supply of parts is back to normal.

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