First Chrysler plants reject and accept contract
Workers at the last of the Chrysler plants won’t vote on the tentative agreement between the UAW and the company until this coming Wednesday. But, the outcome of the first voting on Thursday was mixed, with workers at Kenosha, Wisconsin accepting the contract by a big margin and workers at the Fenton, Missouri plant rejecting it, also by a big margin.
Workers at the Chrysler pick-up truck plant in Fenton, which is near St. Louis, rejected the contract on Thursday. When the vote was tallied late Thursday night, two-thirds of the employees had voted and of that number, 80% voted against it. The president of the Fenton local plant indicated that the contract failed by a larger margin than he had expected, suggesting that a vote against the contract was anticipated, at least by the local leaders.
Things went better for the deal in Kenosha, south of Milwaukee. 78% of the vote in Kenosha was in favor of ratification. That plant, however, employs only 800 workers, vs. the 2,100 employed at Fenton. There are a total of 45,000 UAW members at Chrysler.
But the Fenton vote may be an ominous sign for the remaining votes. The Fenton plant is one of the six plants which is guaranteed production during the life of the contract, in its case getting the new Dodge Ram pick-up truck to replace its production of the current version of that vehicle. In all, the contract provides for closure of only five current plants, one at least of which is to be replaced with a new facility and two of which are not assembly plants, but are a parts distribution center and test facility.
For the contract to be ratified, it must get a majority vote of the total number of UAW members voting. A local rejecting the contract has no significance, by itself. Four locals voted against the recently ratified GM contract.
Nonetheless, the Chrysler pact has been the target of a serious campaign against ratification led by none other than the leader of the UAW team that negotiated it. Claiming that the contract fails to provide sufficient job security guarantees, opponents of the contract have also criticized health care benefit give-backs contained in the contract, as well as the VEBA negotiated between the union and UAW and the two-tier wage structure for new hires in non-core positions.
Job security concerns among Chrysler workers are likely to be heightened by rumors surfacing yesterday that the company is about to terminate as many as five models currently in production. The rumors apparently started after remarks made by Chrysler officials to a meeting of dealers in Las Vegas. Hence, the information is seen as credible, and the expectation is that slower-selling models are likely to be quickly discontinued.
That could mean job losses in the immediate future at Chrysler, which may make some workers particularly receptive to another criticism of the proposed contract: no priority is given to current workers for future job openings.
UAW officials had hoped to have voting on the contract completed by Sunday, but local unions did not follow through. Partly, this was a question of logistics: five Chrysler plants are currently in the middle of a two-week shut down to trim inventory, so it is not as easy to arrange for all workers to vote as it would be if they were all coming to work.
Getting the Chrysler contract ratified is critical to the UAW’s ability to begin formal negotiations at Ford, which are currently on hold. In the even that the contract at Chrysler were to be rejected, it is not clear whether the union would then proceed to negotiate the Ford contract, or whether it would instead reenter negotiations with Chrysler.
Source: ABC Money