Members of United Auto Workers Local Union 696 picketing outside General Motors’ Parts Distribution Center in West Chester Twp. seemed cautiously optimistic Wednesday that a preliminary deal reached by the union and GM would mean the end of the 31-day strike.

West Chester GM workers react to reported union deal

Word of the tentative deal reached the picket line outside the Jacquemin Drive facility around 12:30 p.m., according to Daniel Schmidt, one of five workers on the picket line.

“We’re excited and … very hopeful something good’s going to happen,” said Schmidt, of West Chester, who has worked for GM for eight years. “Hopefully we can get something worked out to where we can get our temps hired in a timely manner.”

FIRST COVERAGE: What picketing GM workers are saying in West Chester

UAW members also remain hopeful they can get “a big increase” in benefits and “not the cut that General Motors was trying to get us to settle on,” Schmidt said.

“Those are our big main issues,” he said.

GM workers knew the strike was coming for about a year and worked a overtime to prepare themselves for the potential effect it could have on their finances, Schmidt said.

“A lot of us have been banking on that, saving that up, being prepared,” he said.

Behind the handful of workers manning the picket line in West Chester on Wednesday were visible signs of local support, including food, bottled water and other supplies, all of it donated by members of the community, as well as members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and employees from Ford, General Electric, MillerCoors and other companies.

MORE: GM workers strike: What does it mean for Butler County?

He said a deal between GM and UAW would be “the first stepping stone” to greater workers’ rights and set the pace for future negotiations between other companies and their unions.

“If we get a raw deal, it’s just gonna (encourage) all these other successful companies to give their workers a raw deal, but if we get a good deal, it’s going to give all these workers a stronger foothold to negotiate a better work environment for them.”

Even if a deal is reached, getting back to work could take a couple of weeks as both sides iron out the agreement and then sign off on it, Schmidt said.

Terry Dittes, vice president and directors of UAW General Motors Department, thanked workers for their support in a letter obtained by this news outlet.

“In the meantime, continue the picket lines until after the UAW-GM National Council concludes business tomorrow, Thursday, October 17, 2019, and then you will receive further instructions,” Dittes said in the letter.

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