American Axle local approves contract, ends GM strike

"It's a no-win for us," he said. The union lost its leverage, in part, because of the shift in U.S. vehicle sales toward small cars. The strike took place just as production for American Axle's bread-and-butter products — SUV and pickup axles — is declining. Automakers are cutting production of those vehicles as consumers turn to more fuel-efficient cars.

On Thursday, lawn chairs, burnt-out steel barrels and even a barbecue remained at former strike sites along Holbrook and the streets surrounding American Axle's sprawling manufacturing complex that straddles Detroit and Hamtramck.

Strikers withstood several blizzards during a walkout that stretched from the heart of winter into spring.

But the weather wasn't their toughest test. Striking workers survived on $200 a week in strike pay from the UAW, and some of the strikers' supporters recently started to lobby for that pay to be doubled.

Throughout the strike, American Axle said it needed concessions to become competitive with its U.S. rivals, including Dana Holding , which is freshly out of bankruptcy.

American Axle has been considered the last of the major auto suppliers paying assembly-line-level wages of about $28 an hour.

Along with the national agreement, workers voted Thursday to accept a local contract that spells out work rules for the Detroit gear and axle plants along Holbrook.

The local contract includes a stricter attendance policy. It ends the use of indoor, designated smoking areas, which means that if workers want to take a smoke break, they must go outside.

It also reinforces a new overtime policy included in the national agreement. Instead of overtime starting after 8 hours of work in a day, it starts after 40 hours of work in a week.

Contact JEWEL GOPWANI at 313-223-4550 or jgopwani@freepress.com.

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