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    Unions in Sweden Expand Blockade Against Tesla

    The LatestElectricians and dockworkers across Sweden on Friday joined a widening effort by unions in the country to pressure Tesla to sign a collective bargaining agreement with its mechanics.The labor action expanded three weeks after the autoworkers’ union, IF Metall, called a strike against Tesla in an effort to secure a collective arrangement over pay and working conditions for its roughly 120 members who work as mechanics for the electric vehicle maker. In the latest move, dockworkers at dozens of ports refused to unload cars from ships and electricians stopped repair work at the company’s charging stations, highlighting the power of organized labor in a country where collective agreements cover nine in 10 of all employees.Port workers blocking a ship from loading Tesla vehicles onto a ship moored at the port of Malmo in Sweden, in early November.Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency, via Associated PressTesla in Sweden: No production but many sales.Tesla does not produce any vehicles in Sweden, but runs several facilities where the cars are serviced. So far this year, the Tesla Model Y is the best-selling new car in Sweden, with more than 14,000 registrations through October, according to Mobility Sweden, an industry group.At the outset of the mechanics’ strike, a Tesla representative told Swedish media that the company followed labor laws in the country, and that it chose not to sign a collective agreement. The company said it would do what it could to keep its business operating.Quotable: ‘It is both important and obvious that we help.’The Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, whose members work at Sweden’s docks, said in a statement that “it is both important and obvious that we help, to stand up for the collective agreement and the Swedish labor market model.”How It Started: Mechanics at Tesla went on strike on Oct. 27.In late October, IF Metall, which represents 300,000 workers in Sweden, including some of Tesla’s mechanics, said talks with company representatives had ended without resolution. The union began the strike action at Tesla’s 12 service centers on Oct. 27.Dockworkers initially refused to unload any Teslas at four major Swedish ports starting on Nov. 7, which on Friday expanded to 55 ports.Unions representing cleaners have also refused to service Tesla facilities, and the postal workers’ union stopped any deliveries from reaching the company’s sites.Both IF Metall and the Transport Workers’ Union have acknowledged that Tesla has found ways around the strikes. Tesla appeared to be bringing in other mechanics to staff its facilities and bringing new vehicles into Sweden by truck, they said.The strike efforts have also been hampered by some union members who work for Tesla and refused to join, Swedish media have reported.What Other Unions Say: Germans have voiced support.In Germany, where Tesla produces the Model Y at a gigafactory outside Berlin, union leaders have been seeking to organize the roughly 11,500 employees who work there. Tesla’s leadership has not engaged with the German autoworkers’ union, IG Metall. Last month, several hundred workers wore union stickers calling for “safe and fair work.”Dirk Schulze, the regional head of IG Metall in Brandenburg, where Tesla has its factory, has expressed his solidarity with the striking workers in Sweden. The strike in Sweden has given workers in Germany “the courage and confidence to organize themselves into a union and take their fate into their own hands,” Mr. Schulze said in a statement.The union has not announced any further measures.What Happens Next: More strikes are planned in Sweden.This week, IF Metall said 50 of its members at Hydro Extrusions, a company that produces an aluminum component for Tesla, would walk off their jobs next Friday. More

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    U.A.W. Members at General Motors Ratify Contract

    The United Automobile Workers union hopes the agreements with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis will help it make inroads at other companies.Members of the United Automobile Workers union have given their backing to new contracts with the three big U.S. automakers, agreements that deliver hefty wage increases and other gains that had eluded the union for more than 20 years.In the most closely contested vote, the tentative contract agreement at General Motors won the support of 55 percent of the nearly 36,000 members casting ballots, according to a tally from all the G.M. locals that the union posted on Thursday.Tentative agreements with Ford Motor and Stellantis, the maker of brands including Jeep and Chrysler, appeared headed for approval by more decisive margins, nearly complete results there showed.A spokesman for the union confirmed the accuracy of the tallies but declined to comment further.The agreements are similar across the three automakers and raise the top wage for production workers 25 percent, to more than $40 over four and a half years, from $32. They were reached last month after a six-week wave of strikes that hobbled the companies — a strategy spearheaded by the union’s new president, Shawn Fain, who had vowed to take a more adversarial approach to negotiations than his predecessors.Workers leaving the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant on Thursday.Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York TimesThe agreements appear to have quickly reverberated across the auto industry, with Toyota, Hyundai and Honda announcing significant wage increase at nonunion plants in the United States only days later.“We call that the U.A.W. bump, and that stands for ‘U Are Welcome,’” Mr. Fain said in testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this week. “And we’re very proud of that. And when these workers decide to organize and join the U.A.W., they’re going to realize the full benefit of union membership and get what they’re fully due.”The new contracts also included larger company contributions to workers’ retirement plans and the right to strike over plant closures. All three automakers declined to comment on the ratification votes.Mr. Fain said the union was seeking to capitalize on its momentum by waging muscular organizing campaigns at nonunion plants, and, in remarks submitted to the Senate committee, he added that thousands of workers were already contacting the union and signing union cards.But even Mr. Fain’s tough approach in the talks with the Big Three did not yield terms attractive enough to many union members. G.M. workers at several large plants voted against the tentative agreement by large margins.In contrast, members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters recently approved a new contract at United Parcel Service with 86 percent support, while a new contract between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood studios passed with 99 percent support.Rebecca Givan, a labor studies professor at Rutgers University, said Mr. Fain had achieved a major victory despite having taken office only a few months earlier with a goal of reorienting the union.Huey Harris, at the G.M. plant in Flint, said he had voted in favor of the contract despite his belief that it didn’t offer veteran workers like him enough gains.Nic Antaya for The New York TimesDr. Givan said the union’s approach of initially striking at one plant at each of the three automakers and ramping up over time had “really upended a lot of conventional wisdom” in the labor movement and had proved unusually successful at reversing some concessions that the union had accepted years earlier, like the suspension of a cost-of-living adjustment.“This shows that if workers build enough power, they can win things back,” she said.U.A.W. members at Mack Truck also ratified a contract on Wednesday, after rejecting an initial agreement with the company.Across the three automakers, skepticism toward the agreements arose in large part from veteran workers who felt that the proposed contracts did not go far enough to compensate them for years of concessions and weak wage growth, even given strong gains for newer workers. Wages for some newer workers will more than double over the next four years.Huey Harris, a G.M. employee at a large truck assembly plant in Flint, Mich., who has worked at the company for over 20 years, said the deal should have gone further in rewarding veteran workers, though he ultimately voted for it. “The traditional people didn’t think they were offered enough in the contract,” he said.Curtis March, who works at Ford’s Chicago plant and made the inflation-adjusted equivalent of more than $40 an hour in the early 1990s, will make about $36 in the first year of the new contract, he said.Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York TimesSeveral longtime employees of the Big Three automakers said that even after the large gains of the new contract, they would not be making more than when they started their careers.Curtis March, who works at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, said he made about $18 an hour once he reached the top wage for production workers at the company in the early 1990s, equivalent to more than $40 today when adjusted for inflation. He will make about $36 in the first year of the new contract.Mr. March said the deal was likely to pass at Ford because it placated more recent employees, who outnumber veterans like him. Workers at his plant approved the deal after voting against several previous contracts.Despite the ultimate success, the path to ratifying the contracts has included some internal strains for Mr. Fain and the union. Unite All Workers for Democracy, a reform group that played a key role in electing Mr. Fain and six other members of the U.A.W. executive board to their positions, declined to formally recommend that union members approve the contract even after Mr. Fain urged the group to do so at a recent meeting, according to three people familiar with the meeting. Instead, Unite All Workers passed a resolution committing it to stay neutral during the ratification vote, though it stated that the group “celebrates the record gains made in this agreement.”Two of these people also said the union’s General Motors department had been less communicative and less proactive in distributing information about the contract to local union officials and members than the Ford and Stellantis departments.The union declined to comment on these developments.LaDonna Newman, a longtime Ford worker, said about the U.A.W.’s president, Shawn Fain, “I give him a lot of kudos for having the courage to go against the corporations.”Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York TimesRatification could also bring political benefits to President Biden, who waded into the negotiations over the summer and fall, and who risked angering business leaders by increasingly siding with the union’s members.Administration officials were taken aback in August when Mr. Fain called for a 40 percent raise for autoworkers and a four-day workweek. Executives at the Big Three called the White House to ask if Mr. Fain was serious. A senior administration official said Biden aides had reassured them that the union wanted a deal, but acknowledged that the negotiations could go quite differently from the way the automakers were used to.In mid-September, when Mr. Biden was in New York for meetings at the United Nations General Assembly, he joined aides on a video call to make a decision that he and his team had been building toward for weeks: to join autoworkers on a picket line in Detroit. That decision infuriated executives, the administration official said, but the White House saw it as a victory for the president and for workers, by making a clear statement about where Mr. Biden stood in the negotiations.Some autoworkers argued that the union had erred by failing to expand the strike, which eventually included about one-third of the companies’ unionized workers in the United States, even more.LaDonna Newman, another longtime Ford worker who opposed the contract because of its limited gains for veteran workers, said she believed the union could have won more at the bargaining table had it been willing to escalate further.Still, she did not blame Mr. Fain for the outcome. “He walked into a burning building,” Ms. Newman said. “I give him a lot of kudos for having the courage to go against the corporations.”Jim Tankersley More

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    G.M.’s Contract Deal With U.A.W. Faces Surprisingly Stiff Opposition

    Many longstanding General Motors workers have been voting against the tentative accord, which they feel insufficiently improves retirement benefits.A United Automobile Workers union vote on a tentative contract agreement with General Motors that provides record wage increases has run into unexpectedly strong resistance from veteran workers.Voting at most union locals has been completed and the final result, due as early as Thursday evening, will very likely be decided by a narrow margin. A majority of workers at several large plants in Michigan, Indiana and Tennessee rejected the contract, though union members at a large sport utility plant in Arlington, Texas, voted in favor of it.G.M., Ford Motor and Stellantis agreed to similar contracts with the union after U.A.W. members went on strike at select plants and warehouses. Workers walked off the job at the first three plants on Sept. 15 and stayed on strike for more than 40 days. It was the first time the union has struck all three automakers at the same time, though it did not shut down all of the factories of any company.The agreement appears to be headed for ratification at Ford and Stellantis, the maker of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram vehicles, by comfortable margins, according to running tallies the U.A.W. published online.At G.M., many veteran workers have opposed the contract because they want the company to contribute more money to retirement plans and the cost of health care for retirees.“I’ve heard from some traditional workers who said there wasn’t enough in there for them,” said David Green, director of the U.A.W. Region 2B, which includes Ohio, Indiana and a small part of Michigan. “The post-retirement health care is an issue for some people. For some people, it’s the pension contributions.”Mr. Green himself thinks the contract represents a big victory for union members. “This is the best contract I’ve seen since I started in 1989,” he said. “So I was happy with it.”General Motors declined to comment on the contract vote.The tentative contract raises the top wage by 25 percent, from $32 to more than $40 over four and a half years. The increase is more than the combined wage increases the union has won over the past 22 years, according to U.A.W. officials.Newer hires who are lower on the pay scale will see larger increases that take them to the new top wage. And workers who were recently hired will see their hourly pay double.The agreement also provides for cost-of-living adjustments that will nudge wages higher if inflation persists as well as enhanced company contributions to pensions and retirement plans, more paid time off and the ability to strike if any plant is closed during the term of the contract.The contract negotiations with G.M., Ford and Stellantis were led by the United Automobile Workers president, Shawn Fain, center, who was elected this year.Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesTo be ratified, the agreement must secure a simple majority. More than 46,000 U.A.W. workers work at G.M., although not all of them are likely to turn in ballots. More than 14,000 company employees took part in the targeted strikes.As of Wednesday afternoon, an online vote tally that the union maintains showed that just over 54 percent of the votes were in favor of the contract, but that tally did not include numbers from some big plants.If the tentative agreement is voted down, it would represent a big setback for the U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, who was elected this year and promised to take a more aggressive approach in the contract talks in hopes of winning significant pay increases and reversing some of the concessions the union accepted in past contracts.He appeared to deliver that in what was widely regarded as a record deal. President Biden, who joined striking workers on the picket line in September at a G.M. site in Belleville, Mich., hailed Mr. Fain’s efforts. The president joined Mr. Fain last week at a plant in Belvidere, Ill., that Stellantis agreed to keep open after halting production this year.“I don’t think it diminishes Shawn Fain’s luster that much because of a close ratification vote,” said Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “It just means expectations were high, and had he not delivered as much as he did, it wouldn’t have passed.”After the contracts with the three Detroit automakers are ratified, Mr. Fain hopes to try to organize workers at nonunion plants in the South owned by Toyota, Honda and other foreign automakers, and the nonunion plants that Tesla operates in California and Texas.Since the terms of the U.A.W. agreements were announced, some of those companies have increased wages of factory workers. Toyota has told workers that it will raise hourly rates by 9 percent in January. Honda and Hyundai will lift wages 11 percent and 14 percent next year. Hyundai plans to increase wages 25 percent by 2028.“Everybody at those companies should say, ‘Thank you, U.A.W.,’” Mr. Wheaton said. “Those increases wouldn’t have happened without the new U.A.W. contract.” More

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    Las Vegas Hotel Strike Averted After Unions Strike Deals with Resorts

    Two big unions reached contract agreements with the three largest resort operators ahead of a series of events crucial to the city’s economic rebound.Debra Jefferies, a cocktail waitress at the Horseshoe Las Vegas, spent much of the week wondering whether she would be walking a picket line, as she did in 1984 — the last time there was a major strike among hospitality workers in the city.“There was solidarity back then, just like there has been right now,” said Ms. Jefferies, 68. “Each generation has stepped up to demand better working conditions.”Nearly 35,000 union members, including Ms. Jefferies, had threatened to begin a strike on Friday against the city’s three big casino operators after months of negotiations had failed to yield a new five-year labor agreement.But last-minute maneuvering averted a walkout as the resort owners — Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts — came to terms, one by one, on tentative contracts with the city’s two most powerful unions.The final agreement, with Wynn Resorts, came early on Friday, a few hours before the strike deadline. The deal, when ratified, would provide “outstanding benefits and overall compensation to our employees,” Wynn said in a statement. The culinary union said the contract featured the largest wage increase negotiated in its 88-year history.A strike loomed as a major disruption to a series of big events, starting with the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a Formula 1 auto race along The Strip that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors late next week.It was the latest crucible for Las Vegas and for Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate in the nation — currently 5.4 percent — and has struggled to bounce back ever since the start of the pandemic shuttered The Strip for months.Along with the Formula 1 race, Las Vegas is the site of the National Finals Rodeo in December and the Super Bowl in February.Bill Hornbuckle, the chief executive of MGM, said in a Wednesday earnings call that his company had sold more than 10,000 tickets to the Grand Prix and expected to bring in $60 million in extra hotel revenue in the days ahead.Those stakes made a labor agreement all the more crucial.Ted Pappageorge, the head of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, said, “Hospitality workers will now be able to provide for their families and thrive in Las Vegas.”Bridget Bennett for The New York TimesThe dispute pitted Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 — affiliates of the labor confederation UNITE HERE — against Caesars, MGM and Wynn, which operate 18 hotels along the The Strip and are the state’s three biggest employers. Ted Pappageorge, the head of Local 226, likened the negotiations to landing “three large planes at once.”The unions pushed for contracts that would raise wages, bolster safety practices and ease concerns about the introduction of new technology that could affect jobs.“Hospitality workers will now be able to provide for their families and thrive in Las Vegas,” Mr. Pappageorge said, adding that the MGM Resorts contract would provide compensation increases “far above” those in the last contract, which amounted to a $4.57-an-hour increase in overall in wages, health care and pensions.Details of the tentative agreements have not been released, but the terms are expected to be similar across the three companies. Under the contract that expired Sept. 15, union members make $26 an hour on average.Stephen M. Miller, an economics professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the sea change in the balance of power between management and labor that has occurred in the post-pandemic period is on clear display in Las Vegas.Mr. Miller said the government stimulus money during the pandemic gave laid-off workers, including many who worked in the culinary union in Las Vegas, the resources to reconsider their future employment path.“The labor market is involved in a large restructuring process, which has given labor more bargaining power,” Mr. Miller said. “The resurgence of strikes and threats of strikes is the observable outcome of that power shift.”“There is no better time than now to fight for what we deserve,” Yusett Salomon, a warehouse operator at Wynn Resorts, said of the negotiations on a new contract.Mikayla Whitmore for The New York TimesEven before the labor ferment in the last year in the auto industry, Hollywood and other realms, Nevada’s culinary workers were a particularly powerful force.It was culinary union members — who include housekeepers, cooks, doormen, laundry workers, bartenders and food servers — whose political clout was vital in winning legislative approval of Covid-19 safety precautions.And they often help sway elections as a powerful base for Democrats.In 2020, members knocked on more than 500,000 doors and helped Joseph R. Biden Jr. win the state by roughly two percentage points. Last year, during the 2022 midterms, they doubled their door-knocking efforts, helping Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto secure her re-election. (Despite their efforts, incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who faced fierce criticism over pandemic shutdowns, lost by a narrow margin.)That kind of support may be crucial to Mr. Biden again next year in a swing state where a recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed him trailing his likely Republican opponent, former President Donald J. Trump, by 10 percentage points.Yusett Salomon was among the workers who knocked on doors for Democrats during the 2022 election. He has worked as a warehouse operator transporting pallets of food and plants at the Wynn for the past two years, earning $22 an hour.On Thursday, Mr. Salomon sat inside a cavernous hotel conference room observing negotiations. “There is no better time than now to fight for what we deserve,” he said.Lynnette Curtis More

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    Biden Bolsters Union Support in Illinois

    The trip, including a meeting with the president of the United Automobile Workers, offered the president a chance to celebrate a landmark labor deal.President Biden pulled a red United Automobile Workers T-shirt over his button-down on Thursday and celebrated a landmark labor deal that kept a Stellantis manufacturing plant in business, using an appearance in Illinois to shore up crucial union support.“I’ve worn this shirt a lot, man,” Mr. Biden told a man in the crowd, one month after he walked a picket line to support autoworkers in their strike for higher wages. “I’ve been involved in the U.A.W. longer than you’ve been alive,” the 80-year-old president said.The speech before the boisterous crowd was a victory lap for Mr. Biden after the union reached an agreement with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis late last month on a contract that included pay increases and reopened the plant in Belvidere, Ill.Mr. Biden made the case for clean energy even as many workers fear the president’s climate change agenda could endanger their jobs. He also drew a contrast with his likely Republican opponent in the 2024 presidential race, former President Donald J. Trump.“When my predecessor was in office, six factories closed across the country. Tens of thousands of auto jobs were lost nationwide, and on top of that he was willing to cede the future of electric vehicles to China,” Mr. Biden said. He added that Mr. Trump has insisted that electric vehicles will lead to the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.“Well, like almost everything else he said, he’s wrong,” Mr. Biden added. “And you have proved him wrong. Instead of lower wages, you won record gains. Instead of fewer jobs, you won a commitment for thousands of more jobs.”During Mr. Trump’s four years in office, the National Labor Relations Board often took pro-corporate stances and was actively hostile to unions. While Mr. Biden in September became the first president to appear on a picket line, Mr. Trump visited a nonunion plant in Michigan and said union members “were being sold down the river by their leadership.”The Biden administration has proposed the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations yet, which would ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars are all-electric by 2032 — up from just 5.8 percent today. The rules, if enacted, could sharply lower planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse emissions.But they also come with costs for autoworkers, because it takes fewer than half the laborers to assemble an all-electric vehicle as it does to build a gasoline-powered car. Union leaders also fear that many of the new manufacturing plants for electric vehicle batteries and other parts are being built in states that are hostile to unions.On Thursday, Mr. Biden showered praise on union leaders, particularly Shawn Fain, the president of the U.A.W., saying the strike that Mr. Fain led saved the automobile industry. “You’ve done a hell of a job, pal,” Mr. Biden told him.Mr. Fain did not offer Mr. Biden the endorsement of his powerful union with about 400,000 active members, including a major presence in the swing state of Michigan. In the past, the union boss has been vocally critical of some administration decisions around its push for electric vehicles, writing in a memo to union members in May that “the E.V. transition is at serious risk of becoming a race to the bottom.” He wrote that the union wanted to see “national leadership have our back on this” before making a decision on an endorsement.“His view was: We’re two guys from working-class backgrounds,” Gene Sperling, Mr. Biden’s liaison to the U.A.W., said of the president’s view shortly before he invited Mr. Fain to the Oval Office in July. The two have spoken on the phone several times since, including once when Mr. Biden called Mr. Fain to wish him a happy birthday.Administration officials said the tenor of the relationship changed when Mr. Biden joined striking autoworkers in Michigan in September. When word came down that the union had struck a deal with the automakers, Mr. Biden stepped away during a state dinner welcoming the Australian prime minister and called Mr. Fain, a senior administration official said.David Popp, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University, noted that while new factories will be needed to build electric vehicle batteries, the vehicles will require fewer suppliers producing parts. Many assembly workers will also need to be retrained.“We may also need fewer workers,” Mr. Popp said in an email. But, he said, “there doesn’t seem to be a consensus yet on whether that is the case.”Kristine Lynn, who spent 17 years on the assembly line at the Belvidere manufacturing plant before it shuttered eight months ago, said she had “mixed emotions” about the transition to clean energy and electric vehicles.Ms. Lynn, 49, said she was unsure what job she was returning to, but knew she would face changes in the long run. Her last position involved putting gas tanks into automobiles.“That job isn’t going to exist anymore,” she said. More

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    Las Vegas Unions and MGM Resorts Reach Tentative Labor Agreement

    The deal, the second in two days with a major resort operator, was announced on the day before a strike deadline set by two major unions.Two unions representing hospitality workers announced on Thursday a tentative labor agreement with a second major Las Vegas hotel operator, MGM Resorts International, a day before a strike deadline set by the unions.Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 said a deal had been reached on a five-year contract covering 25,400 workers at MGM Resorts, which runs eight Las Vegas properties: the Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York and Park MGM.The unions, which are affiliates of UNITE HERE, announced on Wednesday that they had struck a deal with Caesars Entertainment, another major resort operator in the city.The unions said last week that their members would go on strike if an agreement with the city’s three main resort operators was not reached by Friday. The unions are still negotiating with Wynn Resorts.The unions have been negotiating with the resorts since April. The agreement would avert a strike at MGM’s resorts, although the unions’ members still need to ratify the new contract.Ted Pappageorge, the head of Local 226, said in a statement that with the new deal, MGM workers “will be able to provide for their families and thrive in Las Vegas.” The unions said the agreement with MGM included the largest wage increases “ever negotiated in Culinary Union’s 88-year history,” a workload reduction for some members and increased safety protections, among other benefits.“We’re pleased to have reached a tentative agreement that averts a strike, gives our culinary union employees a well-earned boost to pay and benefits and reduces workloads,” Bill Hornbuckle, the chief executive of MGM Resorts, said in a statement.It’s not yet clear how big of a pay increase union members will receive, but Mr. Hornbuckle, told analysts on an earnings call Wednesday that a deal would result in “the largest pay increase in the history of our negotiations with the culinary union.” He added that the company would harness “technology and process improvements to help offset the incremental labor costs we expect.” The deal with the union includes some protections from new technologies that would affect their jobs.The deals with the resort operators were reached about a week before the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a Formula 1 race that winds through the Strip, where most of the resorts are. The event promises to be a major moneymaker for the city’s hospitality industry: Mr. Hornbuckle said his company had sold more than 10,000 tickets to the event and expected to attract $60 million in extra hotel revenue that weekend. More

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    ‘Our Family Can Have a Future’: Ford Workers on a New Union Contract

    Before autoworkers went on strike in September, Dave and Bailey Hodge were struggling to juggle the demands of working at a Ford Motor plant in Michigan and raising their young family.Both were working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, to earn enough to cover monthly bills, car payments and the mortgage on a home they had recently bought. They were also saving for the things they hoped life would eventually bring — vacations, college for their two children and retirement.They were holding their own financially, but their shifts left them little time away from the assembly line, where both worked from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.“You just sleep all the time you’re not at work,” Ms. Hodge, 25, said. Some days, she’d see her 8-year-old son off to school in the morning. She’d fall asleep with her 14-month-old daughter lying between her and Dave.“I’d wake up in the afternoon, get dinner for the kids and go back to the plant,” she said. “Life revolved around work.”“Dave paid the bills with the strike money, and if I needed anything, I used the money I got from tips,” Ms. Hodge said.During the strike, Ms. Hodge worked at a local beauty spa.But the couple said they expected all that to change now. Last month, Ford and the United Automobile Workers, the union that Mr. and Ms. Hodge are members of, struck a tentative agreement containing some of the biggest gains that autoworkers had won in a new contract in decades.If the agreement is ratified, Mr. Hodge, who has been at the plant longer than Ms. Hodge, will make almost $39 an hour, up from $32. Ms. Hodge’s hourly wage will increase to more than $35 from $20. By the end of the four-and-a-half-year contract, both will be making more than $40 an hour. The agreement also provides for more time off.Mr. Hodge, 36, said he had teared up when he heard the details. “I was super happy,” he said. “It makes me feel like our family can have a future now.”About 145,000 workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram, are voting on separate but similar contracts the U.A.W. negotiated with the companies. Many labor and auto experts said a large majority of workers would most likely have the same reaction to the agreements that Mr. Hodge had and would vote in favor of the deals.The Hodges were required to walk the picket line at the plant one day a week. The United Automobile Workers provided $500 a week for each striking worker.Mr. Hodge’s first day back after the strike. “I was super happy,” he said of the new contract. “It makes me feel like our family can have a future now.”Just over 80 percent of the union members at the plant the Hodges work at, in Wayne, Mich., have already voted in favor of the deal. Voting at Ford plants is expected to end on Nov. 17.The tentative agreement also means the Hodges are going back to work after being on strike for 41 days. Their plant, which is a 30-minute drive from downtown Detroit, was one of the first three auto factories to go on strike in September. It makes the Ford Bronco sport utility vehicle and the Ranger pickup truck.On the evening of Sept. 14, Ms. Hodge was on a break when a union representative came by telling workers to leave. She and Mr. Hodge knew a strike was possible and had set aside enough money to cover their expenses for two to three months, but they were still surprised they were called on to strike first.The Hodges were required to walk the picket line at the plant one day a week, leaving them lots of time for the family activities they had been missing. The U.A.W. provided $500 a week for each striking worker. The $1,000 a week the Hodges collected helped, but Ms. Hodge also went to work at a beauty spa.The Hodges’ son arriving home from school.“At first, you were happy to have some time off and have dinner as a family, put the kids to bed, but then it keeps going on, and you’re like, ‘Whoa, this doesn’t seem to be ending,’” Ms. Hodge said.“Dave paid the bills with the strike money, and if I needed anything, I used the money I got from tips,” Ms. Hodge said.But as the strike wore on, the Hodges found they had to keep close track of their grocery shopping and stopped eating out.“At first, you were happy to have some time off and have dinner as a family, put the kids to bed, but then it keeps going on, and you’re like, ‘Whoa, this doesn’t seem to be ending,’” Ms. Hodge said. “As it goes along, it gets scary.”On Oct. 25, Ms. Hodge began getting texts from friends at the plant that the U.A.W. and Ford had reached a tentative agreement. That evening, she and Mr. Hodge watched an announcement by the union’s president, Shawn Fain, on Facebook.By the end of the four-and-a-half-year contract, both will be making more than $40 an hour.As the strike wore on, the Hodges found that they had to keep close track of their grocery shopping and stopped eating out.For Mr. Hodge, the news of the union’s gains — including a 25 percent general wage increase, cost-of-living adjustments and increased retirement contributions — was hard to fathom given the slower progress workers had made in recent years.He had started at Ford in 2007 as a temporary worker and over five years climbed to the top temporary worker wage of $27 an hour. In 2012, when he became a permanent employee, he had to start at the entry-level wage of $15 an hour.“It took me a good 11 years to get to where I am now,” he said. “So this feels like I’m getting back what I would’ve had.”The Hodges plan to continue working 12-hour, seven-day schedules for a short while to rebuild their savings account, and to take care of expenses they had put off, like fixing the dented bumper and cracked windshield in Ms. Hodge’s Ford Explorer.But eventually, they want to cut back to working Monday through Friday, and perhaps one weekend a month.“It will be great just doing some overtime, not overtime all the time,” Ms. Hodge said. “And we’ll start doing things with the kids. Maybe take them to a hotel that has a swimming pool. That would be nice.”A 25 percent general wage increase was hard to fathom given the slower progress workers had made in recent years.“It will be great just doing some overtime, not overtime all the time,” Ms. Hodge said. More

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    SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood Studios Agree to Deal to End Actors’ Strike

    The agreement all but ends one of the longest labor crises in the history of the entertainment industry. Union members still have to approve the deal.One of the longest labor crises in Hollywood history is finally coming to an end.SAG-AFTRA, the union representing tens of thousands of actors, reached a tentative deal for a new contract with entertainment companies on Wednesday, clearing the way for the $134 billion American movie and television business to swing back into motion.Hollywood’s assembly lines have been at a near-standstill since May because of a pair of strikes by writers and actors, resulting in financial pain for studios and for many of the two million Americans — makeup artists, set builders, location scouts, chauffeurs, casting directors — who work in jobs directly or indirectly related to making TV shows and films.Upset about streaming-service pay and fearful of fast-developing artificial intelligence technology, actors joined screenwriters on picket lines in July. The writers had walked out in May over similar concerns. It was the first time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was the head of the actors’ union and Marilyn Monroe was still starring in films, that actors and writers were both on strike.The Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, reached a tentative agreement with studios on Sept. 24 and ended its 148-day strike on Sept. 27. In the coming days, SAG-AFTRA members will vote on whether to accept their union’s deal, which includes hefty gains, like increases in compensation for streaming shows and films, better health care funding, concessions from studios on self-taped auditions, and guarantees that studios will not use artificial intelligence to create digital replicas of their likenesses without payment or approval.SAG-AFTRA, however, failed to receive a percentage of streaming service revenue. It had proposed a 2 percent share — later dropped to 1 percent, before a pivot to a per-subscriber fee. Fran Drescher, the union’s president, had made the demand a priority, but companies like Netflix balked, calling it “a bridge too far.”Instead, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of entertainment companies, proposed a new residual for streaming programs based on performance metrics, which the union, after making some adjustments, agreed to take.At 118 days, it was the longest movie and television strike in the union’s 90-year history. SAG-AFTRA said in a terse statement that its negotiating committee had voted unanimously to approve the tentative deal, which will proceed to the union’s national board on Friday for “review and consideration.”It added, “Further details will be released following that meeting.”Shaan Sharma, a member of the union’s negotiating committee, said he had mixed emotions about the tentative deal, though he declined to go into specifics because the SAG-AFTRA board still needed to review it.“They say a negotiation is when both sides are unhappy because you can’t get everything you want on either side,” he said, adding, “You can be happy for the deal overall, but you can feel a sense of loss for something that you didn’t get that you thought was important.”Ms. Drescher, who had been active on social media during the strike, didn’t immediately post anything on Wednesday evening. She and other SAG-AFTRA officials had come under severe pressure from agents, crew member unions and even some of her own members, including George Clooney and Ben Affleck, to wrap up what had started to feel like an interminable negotiation.“I’m relieved,” Kevin Zegers, an actor most recently seen in the ABC show “The Rookie: Feds,” said in an interview after the union’s announcement. “If it didn’t end today, there would have been riots.”The studio alliance said in a statement that the tentative agreement “represents a new paradigm,” giving SAG-AFTRA “the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union.”There is uncertainty over what a poststrike Hollywood will look like. But one thing is certain: There will be fewer jobs for actors and writers in the coming years, undercutting the wins that unions achieved at the bargaining table.Even before the strikes, entertainment companies were cutting back on the number of television shows they ordered, a result of severe pressure from Wall Street to turn money-losing streaming services into profitable businesses. Analysts expect companies to make up for the pair of pricey new labor contracts by reducing costs elsewhere, including by making fewer shows and canceling first-look deals.The actors, like the writers, said the streaming era had negatively affected their working conditions and compensation.Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York TimesFor the moment, however, the agreements with actors and writers represent a capitulation by Hollywood’s biggest companies, which started the bargaining process with an expectation that the unions, especially SAG-AFTRA, would be relatively compliant. Early in the talks, for instance, the studio alliance — Netflix, Disney, NBCUniversal, Apple, Amazon, Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros. — refused to negotiate on multiple union proposals. “Rejected our proposal, refused to make a counter” became a rallying cry among the striking workers.As the studio alliance tried to limit any gains, the companies cited business challenges, including the rapid decline of cable television and continued streaming losses. Disney, struggling with $4 billion in streaming losses in 2022, eliminated 7,000 jobs in the spring.But the alliance underestimated the pent-up anger pulsating among the studios’ own workers. Writers and actors called the moment “existential,” arguing that the streaming era had deteriorated the working conditions and compensation for rank-and-file members of their professions so much that they could no longer make a living. The companies brushed such comments aside as union bluster and Hollywood dramatics. They found out the workers were serious.With the strikes dragging into the fall and the financial pain on both sides mounting, the studio alliance reluctantly switched from trying to limit gains to figuring out how to get Hollywood’s creative assembly lines running again — even if that meant bending to the will of the unions.“It was all macho, tough-guy stuff from the companies for a while,” said Jason E. Squire, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. “But that certainly did change.”There had previously been 15 years of labor peace in Hollywood.“The executives of these companies didn’t need to worry about labor very much — they worried about other things,” Chris Keyser, a chair of the Writers Guild negotiating committee, said in an interview after the writers’ strike concluded. “They worried about Wall Street and their free cash flow, and all of that.”Mr. Keyser continued: “They could say to their labor executives, ‘Do the same thing you’ve been doing year after year. Just take care of that, because labor costs are not going to be a problem.’ Suddenly, that wasn’t true anymore.” As a result of the strikes, studios are widely expected to overhaul their approach to union negotiations, which in many ways dates to the 1980s.Writers Guild leaders called their deal “exceptional” and “transformative,” noting the creation of viewership-based streaming bonuses and a sharp increase in royalty payments for overseas viewing on streaming services. Film writers received guaranteed payment for a second draft of screenplays, something the union had tried but failed to secure for at least two decades.The Writers Guild said the contract included enhancements worth roughly $233 million annually. When bargaining started in the spring, the guild proposed $429 million in enhancements, while studios countered with $86 million, according to the guild.For an industry upended by the streaming revolution, which the pandemic sped up, the tentative accord takes a meaningful step toward stabilization. About $10 billion in TV and film production has been on hold, according to ProdPro, a production tracking service. That amounts to 176 shows and films.The fallout has been significant, both inside and outside the industry. California’s economy alone has lost more than $5 billion, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Because the actors’ union prohibited its members from participating in promotional campaigns for already-finished work, studios pulled movies like “Dune: Part Two” from the fall release schedule, forgoing as much as $1.6 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to David A. Gross, a film consultant.With labor harmony restored, the coming weeks should be chaotic. Studio executives and producers will begin a mad scramble to secure soundstages, stars, insurance, writers and crew members so productions can start running again as quickly as possible. Because of the end-of-year holidays, some projects may not restart until January.Both sides will have to go through the arduous process of working together again after a searing six-month standoff. The strikes tore at the fabric of the clubby entertainment world, with actors’ union leaders describing executives as “land barons of a medieval time,” and writers and actors still fuming that it took studio executives months, not weeks, to reach a deal.Workers and businesses caught in the crossfire were idled, potentially leaving bitter feelings toward both sides.And it appears that Hollywood executives will now have to contend with a resurgent labor force, mirroring many other American businesses. In recent weeks, production workers at Walt Disney Animation voted to unionize, as did visual-effects workers at Marvel.Contracts with powerful unions that represent Hollywood crews will expire in June and July, and negotiations are expected to be fractious.“It seemed apparent early on that we were part of a trend in American society where labor was beginning to flex its muscles — where unions were beginning to reassert their power,” said Mr. Keyser, the Writers Guild official.Brooks Barnes More