The results of Wednesday’s voting at United Auto Workers locals in Detroit are in, and four of the crucial locals have approved the contract – including one which is led by the chief dissident, Bill Parker. The margin of approval at each of the locals was about two to one. 
This brings the contract closer to overall approval, but its ultimate fate will likely be determined by votes to be held on Friday and other Chrysler plants, including the Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant at which there appears to be substantial opposition to ratification of the contract. Local 1700, which is headed by Parker, voted 65% in favor of the contract, and the percentage voting approval at the three other plants was even higher at the other three plants. 
UAW officials, including union President Ron Gettelfinger, have been campaigning for ratification since opposition to the agreement began to coalesce early last week. Because the locals vote at separate times, the outcome of earlier votes can have an impact on later votes. At least initially, it was thought that opposition to the contract was stronger among assembly line workers than among other represented workers. 

However, that turned out not to be the case in yesterday’s voting, as votes in favor of ratification were 60%, 75%, 78% and 82%.

In fact, opposition to ratification of the contract may be evaporating. Should the pact be rejected, the UAW’s leaders would not be obliged to return to bargaining with Chrysler. They could, instead, simply hold another vote, perhaps restricted to only those locals which rejected it previously. It is also possible that Chrysler workers are becoming better acquainted with the contract’s terms, and are discovering, for example, that it affords much more job security than its opponents have suggested.

Of course, the real fun would come from rejection of the contract. Because it has been expected that the basic pattern of the contract negotiated with General Motors would also be the predicate for contracts and Chrysler and Ford, the UAW cannot negotiate a contract much different at Chrysler than the one now under consideration by the members. Rejection of the contract at Chrysler would make it impossible to negotiate a contract at Ford until the Chrysler matter is settled, and could very well embolden potential opposition to a similar deal at Ford.

At this point, however, it is looking like the contract will be ratified, albeit by a relatively narrow margin. To ratify, the contract must get only a simple majority of those voting. That means that it can be ratified by less than 50% of total membership.

Ralph Kalal
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