At union halls across the country, UAW members like third-generation GM employee Brian Yarbrough are casting votes they never imagined.
"I don't think any of us even two years ago could have believed we're in the situation we are in now," Yarbrough told CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.
He said he voted "yes" because he says keeping GM alive is the only way to keep a roof over his family's head.
"We're trying at this point to make sure we can survive and keep the house and provide for our son," Sabrina Yarbrough said.
Sixty-five thousand union workers are being asked for sweeping givebacks, including eliminating dental and eye care benefits for retirees.
Current workers will see no cost of living adjustments and no performance bonuses - and must promise not to strike in the next six years.
In return GM agreed to keep open two of 16 plants targeted for closure and offer buyouts to all blue collar workers. They'll give the union a 17.5 percent stake in the company and about $4 billion in IOUs to pay for health care starting in 2013.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger bristles at recent criticism, especially from bondholders that the union is getting the best of the deal.
"I don't know of anybody's who's happy," Gettelfinger said. "Certainly we're not happy. Having a ratified agreement going into the bankruptcy in the process is critically important to us."
Having an agreement in place before bankruptcy means less chance the court could impose even more painful concessions down the road.
When we first met Brian and Sabrina Yarbrough last year they told us they were fearful - and they still are because Bryan's plant could be one of the 14 closed down.
"I can't even watch the news," Sabrina Yarbrough said. "I watch it, I just cry."
But despite that, they say for the first time in a long time they are hopeful the vote Brian didn't want to make today may make the difference in his family's future.