UAW Narrowly Approves Chrysler Labor Contract
Unexpected opposition among rank and file members is overcome in close vote
By Brendan Moore
The tentative agreement hammered out by the UAW leadership got off to a rocky start, with unexpected opposition from a sizable percentage of the union rank and file membership. Several large plants voted against ratification and some senior UAW leaders, most notably Bill Parker, the de facto leader of the dissidents within the union, fought against approval, urging union members through various media platforms to vote “no”.
Parker, the UAW’s national Chrysler negotiating chairman, has made it very plain since the tentative agreement was announced 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. Additionally, Parker and others are extremely unhappy about the agreement’s two-tier wage provisions, which would allow Chrysler to bring on new hires at a lower wage than current UAW workers.
Senior union officials have considerably ratcheted up their push for the new agreement since the early defeats at several large production plants, have conducted numerous Q&A sessions at the various Chrysler plants in order to allay fears and/or misconceptions about the new agreement, and they were ultimately successful in turning back the rebellion against the tentative pact. In fact, the strong push resulted in a 65% approval rate at the Sterling Heights car plant where the aforementioned Bill Parker is the senior UAW onsite.
The last vote of the 27 Chrysler plants is at Chrysler’s small-car plant in Belvidere, Ill., and is scheduled for later today. There are roughly 3,300 workers at the small-car plant, which is too few to change the national outcome unless a huge majority nix the deal, which is not likely since small cars are what Chrysler needs more of going forward, seemingly assuring the plant (and the UAW workers there) of production work the next four years of the work agreement.
The UAW leadership has to feel as if they dodged a bullet on this one, and are no doubt hoping the next (and final) agreement with Ford Motor Company and its attendant ratification process will be an easier one.
Editor’s note: 10.27.2007, 11:31 AM Eastern Time – as expected, the UAW officially ratified the contract with Chrysler this morning.
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