FCA contract under fire in local votes – Detroit Free Press
There were more signs of trouble on Friday as UAW members who work at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Trenton, Perrysburg, Ohio and Kokomo, Ind. voted against a proposed four-year contract.
The biggest blow yet to the contract came late Friday when the Free Press learned that UAW Local 685 voted overwhelmingly to reject the contract.
While there were reports that workers at an engine plant in Dundee voted in favor of the deal, most UAW units that have voted so far have voted against a tentative agreement reached last week between the Auburn Hills automaker and the union.
A rejection of the contract would force the UAW to either go back to the bargaining table with Fiat Chrysler, call a strike, or to move on to try to negotiate new four-year agreements with Ford or General Motors.
At UAW Local 685, which represents nearly about 5,000 workers at the automaker’s transmission plants in Kokomo, Ind., 77% of the production workers who cast ballots voted to reject the contract and 65% of skilled trades workers who cast ballots voted to reject the deal, according to a person briefed on the results who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Earlier in the evening, the Free Press reported that workers at UAW Local 372 in Trenton and UAW Local 1435 in Perrysburg, Ohio also voted against the contract.
Eighty percent of production workers at the plant and 71% of skilled trades workers voted to reject the new national contract, according to the UAW Local 372’s website.
At UAW Local 1435, which represents workers at Toledo Machining, 55.7% of those who cast ballots voted against the contract, according to results posted on Facebook and reported by the Detroit News.
At UAW Local 723, which represents several hundred workers at Dundee Engine, 55.7% of workers casting ballots voted in favor of the agreement.
The results that came in late Friday are the latest in a string of results in nationwide voting on the proposed contract that could spell trouble for UAW officials who are trying to convince workers to ratify it. UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell has visited many of the UAW locals in recent days to talk to the members and urge them to vote yes.
If the contract is ratified, every worker would get a $3,000 signing bonus, entry-level workers in assembly plants would see wages increase to a range of $17 to $25.35 per hour, and workers hired before 2007 would receive two 3% wage increases and two lump-sum bonuses over the life of the contract.
But for the deal to become official, a majority of more than 40,000 workers from 37 UAW units would need to vote in favor.
So far, workers at UAW locals that represent workers in Kokomo, Ind., Sterling Heights, and Center Line have voted to reject the contract while a different unit in Kokomo voted in favor.
Workers at several other big plants don’t vote until early next week.
Going into the vote, many workers said they were angry because the agreement did not retain a provision that would have boosted some entry workers to $28 per hour — the average wage that workers hired before 2007 make.
“The membership body as a whole is disappointed and I was really disappointed,” said Larry Noble, 65, of Detroit, who works at Trenton Engine. “I can see the UAW’s position,” Noble said, but he still believes the UAW should have been able to negotiate higher wages and more buyout offers for older workers.
Some workers say the UAW and Fiat Chrysler should honor a 25% cap on entry-level workers that would automatically boost the pay of workers from $19.28 per hour to $28 per hour once the company exceeds that threshold.
The cap was originally negotiated as part of the UAW’s 2007 agreement with Chrysler. It also was included as part of a summary of the 2011 contract that was distributed to workers and every entry-level worker was told by UAW representatives that he or she had a shot at eventually making $28 per hour. But the cap wasn’t in the actual 2011 contract that spans hundreds of pages.
“I can’t help what they told you,” UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell told members of UAW Local 685 on Friday.
Jewell told UAW members that the union’s goal in its contract talks with Fiat Chrysler was to come as close as possible to eliminating the two-tier system rather than negotiating a cap that would further institutionalize the two-tier wage system while also securing jobs and winning new product investments.
The automaker has promised to invest billions in plants over the next four years, but has not said where or what products.
“All I am an saying, brothers and sisters, is we can’t take everybody up to $28, freeze the people at the top, keep those people at $28 and get $5.3 billion invested in this country,” Jewell told workers who were assembled in a gymnasium in Kokomo on Friday. “Sometimes you have to figure out how to get the best of investments and best you can get at the bargaining table on wages and investments.”
And some workers say the solution the UAW negotiated with Fiat Chrysler is better than the original cap.
“The reason they did not push the cap is not a lot of people were going to meet that,” said Daniel Killgore, 41, of Taylor who works at the company’s Trenton Engine plant.
If ratified, the agreement would provide all entry level production workers with a raise and a wage scale that runs from $17 per hour to $25.35 per hour. That’s up from the current wage scale for new hires that starts at $15.78 per hour and tops out at $19.28 per hour.
Killgore also said the raises for longtime workers are fair.
“Did I think we were going to get everything back in one contract? No,” he said. “We do have raises that we have not had in 10 years, and I am OK with that.”
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.