Fate of Ford-UAW deal in the hands of Dearborn workers – Detroit Free Press
The fate of the UAW’s national contract with Ford will be decided Friday by workers at several plants in Dearborn represented by UAW Local 600.
About 8,000 workers at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant, Dearborn Stamping, Dearborn Engine and several other plants are still to be counted.
So far, 52% of more than 34,000 UAW members have voted against the Ford agreement, which provides raises for all workers along with an $8,500 signing bonus and a $1,500 profit-sharing payment.
For ratification, a majority in favor is needed from 52,900 workers voting in a nationwide process that will end on Friday. Going into Friday, workers at UAW Local 600 would need to overcome a deficit of about 1,500 votes, according to an unofficial tally of the vote provided to the Free Press.
“They are going to have to vote yes by a pretty strong margin if this is going to pass,” said Art
Schwartz, a former labor negotiator for General Motors and president of Labor and Economics Associates in Ann Arbor.
A rejection of the contract would be yet another embarrassing blow for the union, which has had trouble convincing its members to ratify contracts with the Detroit Three this year. In October, workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rejected the first national contract that the UAW recommended.
At General Motors, a majority of production workers voted in favor of a proposed contract but a majority of skilled trades workers voted against the deal. That forced the UAW to put ratification of GM’s contract on hold for more than two weeks while it went back to the company to address provisions those workers disliked. The UAW is meeting with GM local leaders from across the country on Friday to update them on those discussions.
But Schwartz said a rejection of Ford’s contract would likely be far more troublesome for the UAW. At FCA, the UAW was able to convince the automaker to increase the amount of money that entry-level workers would make. The UAW also launched a more aggressive social media communication strategy as workers voted on the second agreement.
But that higher pay scale is already included in Ford’s contract and the agreement has been described by UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles as “one of the richest agreements in the history of UAW-Ford.”
What’s more, Ford’s contract includes bigger profit sharing bonuses and includes a commitment by the automaker to invest $9 billion in the U.S. over the next four years and create more than 8,500 jobs — more than GM and FCA combined.
“I just cannot see Ford giving the UAW a better deal,” Schwartz said.
If the contract is rejected, the UAW would have three options: Go back to the bargaining table with the automaker and try to negotiate bigger economic gains, conduct a revote of the same contract and make it clear that a rejection would result in an immediate strike, or call a strike.
The last time UAW Ford workers went on strike nationally was in 1976.
In results announced Thursday, 67% of workers at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant voted against the agreement and only a slim margin of 50.7% of workers at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant cast votes in favor.
A Ford spokesman declined Thursday to comment on the voting process or how the automaker would react if the agreement is rejected.
If the deal is ratified, entry-level workers who are making between $15.78 and $19.28 per hour would see their wages raised immediately to $17 to $22.50 and then up to about $29 per hour over an eight-year period. Many would reach the top wage faster.
However, under the current contract, which expired on Sept. 14, Ford could employ only a maximum of 25% of its workforce as entry-level workers before automatically bumping them up to the same average wage as longtime workers.
Ford exceeded that cap earlier this year and bumped more than 800 workers up to the top wage, immediately giving them about a $10-per-hour wage increase. Now, many entry-level workers are angry that the UAW agreed to a progression that would take the newest workers, hired this year, eight years to get to the top wage.
“I just don’t think they should have to wait that long,” said Jimmy Fuller, a production worker at Ford’s Louisville (Ky.) Assembly Plant. “I have a problem with them negotiating something that would take eight years for a 4-year contract.”
The UAW agreed to the progression when it negotiated its first contract in September with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as a way to eventually eliminate the two-tier wage system that both UAW leaders and workers have disliked since it was introduced eight years ago.
For decades the UAW has worked to negotiate similar agreements with each automaker in a practice called “pattern bargaining” so that the automakers can compete against each other based on the quality and design of their products rather than with an advantage or disadvantage on labor costs.
Still, Fuller, who has worked for Ford for 18 years, believes the UAW will be able to win additional gains from the automaker if the contract is rejected.
Fuller and others have argued the automaker should reinstate cost of living increases that were frozen in the 2007 contract when Ford and the other Detroit automakers were going through severe financial crises.
Through the first 9 months of the year, Ford has made more than $4.7 billion, fueled by the automotive industry’s sales boom.
“I feel like with the amount of money Ford is making now, they can afford to at least give back what they took away from us,” Fuller said.
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.
What happens if UAW members reject the Ford contract?
The UAW would have three options: