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Workers at two GM plants OK deal with company, strike likely to end

Striking union autoworkers walk the picket line outside the General Motors Flint Truck Assembly in Flint, Mich., earlier this month. (Reuters)
Striking union autoworkers walk the picket line outside the General Motors Flint Truck Assembly in Flint, Mich., earlier this month. (Reuters)

DETROIT — Striking workers at two large General Motors factories, including one with the most employees in the United States, have approved a new contract with the company — all but assuring the deal will be ratified and a contentious 40-day strike will end Friday.

Production workers at GM’s SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, voted 78 percent in favor, while skilled trades voted 60 percent for the contract.

Arlington is the United Auto Workers union’s largest GM local, representing more than 5,000 people.

Vote totals weren’t given.

Also, workers at an assembly plant in Wentzville, Miss., near St. Louis, approved the deal Friday with 63.5 percent of production workers and 69.9 percent of skilled trades in favor.

About 49,000 workers walked off their jobs Sept. 16, halting production at more than 30 U.S. factories and hampering it in Mexico and Canada due to parts shortages.

Analysts estimate the strike cost GM more than $2 billion.

Leaders at the union local office in Arlington apparently think the contract will be approved when national vote totals are announced later Friday.

The new four-year contract includes a mix of wage increases and annual lump-sum payments, as well as an $11,000 signing bonus. But it also allows GM to close three U.S. factories that made slow-selling cars and transmissions.

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Some production workers could return to work as early as Friday night or Saturday morning, ending a walkout that was big enough to help push down September U.S. durable goods orders by 1.1 percent, the largest drop in four months.

Meanwhile, the October jobs report is poised to take a hit from the GM employees who have been on strike.

It was the largest strike since 2003, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s another wrinkle for economists working to determine just how much payroll gains have been slowing.

Next Friday’s report may show employers added just 90,000 jobs in October, the weakest reading since May, according to forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg.

Payrolls data and the monthly strike report are both conducted during the same period, but that doesn’t mean each striking worker equals one job subtracted from total payrolls, BLS economist Shane Haley said in a phone interview Friday.

For example, the number may differ if striking GM workers are working a second job, he said.

Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this article.

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