Will the UAW fight at Ford?
News reports indicate that an agreement is near between the United Auto Workers and the Ford Motor Company. But an unexpected development may threaten any contract which the company reaches with union leaders.
Chrysler’s announcement that it is cutting over 10,000 union jobs, coming mere days after their contract with the UAW was ratified over substantial internal opposition among both union leaders and union members, may galvanize UAW members at Ford to demand a contract that assures them of “job security.”
If they do – and it would be understandable that they would – the contract talks at Ford could become very difficult.
The problem was created, at least in part, by General Motors. GM was willing to commit specific products to specific plants and put it in writing for the UAW. GM may have been willing to do that because it’s plans were already solidified, so it wasn’t doing anything more than what it had planned. But the UAW did not negotiate that same assurance in the Chrysler contract and the contract was only narrowly ratified over a substantial minority of Chrysler workers who complained about the absence of “job security.”
Ford workers may now figure there’s nothing to lose by demanding from Ford the assurances Chrysler workers did not get. The UAW leaders told their members that Chrysler’s financial situation did not allow for the same assurances that GM had given. But, implicit in the leaders’ campaign for ratification was the promise that workers would preserve more jobs by ratifying the contract than they would by risking the future of the company rejecting it
At this point, workers would be forgiven if they weren’t so sure about that. The overall impression is that the Chrysler workers got taken by Chrysler’s management.
Moreover, the leaders at the UAW look like fools. The people that opposed the contract look like prophets.
To the outside, it looks very much like either Ron Gettelfinger, UAW president, was suckered or, worse, that he sold out his members. Either the new owners of Chrysler put one over on him – a big one, half the UAW members at the company losing their jobs – or he withheld that little bit of information from the members when they were voting. Either way, it looks bad.
There may be a rising sentiment against the leadership of the union, and Ford could end up paying the price for it.
In the meantime, Ford Motor Company could end up caught in the crossfire between union leaders and the rank and file.