UAW Deal with Chrysler in Serious Trouble
By Brendan Moore
Final totals from the Chrysler-UAW voting won’t be known until next week, but the size of the locals voting down the agreement so far portends a very rocky road to approval for the labor agreement national UAW officials reached with Chrysler LLC.
Not only are large locals like Local 110 in Fenton, Mo., one of Chrysler’s largest, with 2,781 hourly workers at the South Assembly Plant, voting down the agreement, this particular local makes the brand-new minivan twins (Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan), which are expected to be sales leaders for the next five years, at least. This would seem to assure the Local 110 workers all the work they want over the next four years of the proposed agreement, so it is surprising to many that they would vote the contract down.
This does not bode well for the voting at UAW locals who work out of a plant that does not have a vehicle with a secure future. Ratification at those plants could be very much an uphill battle.
There seems to be a large groundswell of opposition to the agreement among the different UAW locals, and the internet has been burning up with the strident voices of the many UAW members that are against the plan. Additionally, the UAW’s national Chrysler negotiating chairman, Bill Parker, has made it very plain that he feels that Chrysler took advantage of the UAW in the negotiations and gave the UAW workers at Chrysler a much worse deal than what the UAW workers at GM received. One example of this inequity from the point of view of Chrysler’s UAW workers is the fact that Chrysler did NOT make a commitment to move production back to the U.S. from their Mexican plants, which is something GM agreed to in their agreement with the UAW.
If the UAW-Chrysler workers do ultimately vote the contract down, it will be the first time in more than 20 years that such a thing has happened. It will also mean the Chrysler LLC and the UAW will probably have to go back to the negotiating table, and if that happens, negotiations between Ford and the UAW will get pushed further back in the queue.
National and local union officials accuse the opponents of the pact of spreading disinformation and whipping up mistrust of the union’s leaders through selective reading of the new agreement. Many union officials say that a very small minority of dissidents within the union is behind the opposition to the agreement. “Frankly, many of these members wouldn’t be happy with any agreement that does not exactly match the ones we’ve had in place for the previous two contracts”, stated a local union official who did not wish to be identified.
Regardless of the mechanism used to foster dissent among the UAW members, the effort is working. What started out as a low rumble of opposition when the agreement was announced has now turned into a howl at some locals, and national union officials are furiously trying to tamp down the opposition to the contract before it turns into an even bigger fire. Union officials have spent the last week traveling to various locals in order to conduct information seminars, Q&A sessions, etc. in order to present what they feel is a good deal for the UAW. Only the results next week will provide the answer of whether they reacted quickly enough to quell the rebellion within their ranks.
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