UAW Workers At Lehigh Valley BMW Distribution Center Finalize ‘Unprecedented’ Contract Agreement

After threatening to strike on June 8, the union's main focus was unity and solidarity heading to the bargaining table. It worked, and they secured wage hikes of up to 33 percent and ended a two-tier wage system.
Photo courtesy of @UAW.

United Auto Workers members at the BMW Regional Distribution Center in Palmer Township voted Monday to ratify a new contract agreement that secures record wage increases and better workplace policies. The deal comes a month after UAW members voted to authorize a strike. In response, BMW offered a five-year contract that the union is calling “unprecedented.”

The new agreement ends the two-tier wage system, putting workers on the same pay level, and increases wages by up to 33 percent.

The majority of workers will immediately receive an 11 percent raise, but wages are expected to continue to increase until the contract’s end. The deal also addresses workers’ health and safety concerns, and includes improvements to policies pertaining to attendance, time off, overtime exemptions, and uniforms. 

“This contract will only improve the standard of living for my co-workers,” Zach Haas, chief steward and bargaining unit chair, told the Bucks County Beacon, adding that “no concessions were made” at the bargaining table during negotiations.

Workers first threatened to strike on June 8 and organized a number of red shirt days and rallies in their campaign for a better contract. According to Haas, their main focus was on unity and solidarity. “We spent a lot of time with surveys, getting feedback and information on what was important from the members, and we took that to the bargaining table and worked with the company on earning a great contract,” he said.

Relieved that a strike has been avoided, Haas says the agreement will help ensure that workers at BMW’s regional distribution center have a voice. Due to the contract’s record wage increases, he says, UAW members currently working multiple jobs to earn a living may soon be able to spend more time with their families. 

READ: Workers Have Helped Usher in a New Era of Union Militancy in the United States

“The company has been making billions in profits while many of us had gone for years without a raise, which is unacceptable,” said Haas. “We used our collective power, including the very real threat of withholding our labor, to win a great deal that rewards our work and gives us a stronger voice and platform for making the plant safer.”

Most workers at the Lehigh Valley facility earn less than $22 an hour. Under the agreement, this will increase to nearly $30 an hour by the final year of the deal. 

In addition to higher pay, Haas emphasizes the agreement’s elimination of the two-tier wage system. “We were able to end tiers in this contract, meaning we have equal pay for equal work,” he said. “Previously, two workers doing the same job could be earning different wages and this contract will correct that.”

According to UAW, wages and benefits for workers at the BMW facility have remained stagnant for years, despite the fact that the corporation has amassed around $50 billion in profits since 2021. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse also earns an annual salary of nearly $10 million.

UAW praised the new contract as one that more accurately reflects the value that the facility’s workers bring to the company. 

 “It’ll be a great benefit to the workers and people of our community,” Haas said.

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Catherine Caruso

Catherine Caruso is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer with a focus on culture, politics, education, and LGBTQ rights.

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