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Vol. 75/No. 40      November 7, 2011

Ford vote: UAW ratifies
another concession pact
CHICAGO—The United Auto Workers announced October 19 that its members voted to approve a national pact with Ford Motor Company covering some 41,000 workers by a 63 percent margin.

The concession contract initially appeared to be headed toward rejection, after large locals in Chicago and Michigan turned it down. The tide turned when UAW officials began to tour locals and push harder for the agreement, warning that a “no” vote could lead to a strike or lockout.

Officers of UAW Local 249 at Ford’s Kansas City truck plant posted a message on the local’s website saying that rejecting the contract would threaten “house payments,” “car payments,” and “Christmas presents.”

Union tops touted the contract as making Ford more competitive in the world market. “As the nation’s economy remains stalled and uncertain and its employment rate stagnates, we were able to win an agreement with Ford that will bring auto manufacturing jobs back to the United States from China, Mexico, and Japan,” said UAW President Bob King.

The union’s collaboration was praised by Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, in an October 19 statement. “This agreement is proof that, by working together with our UAW partners,” he said, “we can invest in our plants and people, and make a very positive impact on the U.S. economy.”

The UAW contract with General Motors was approved September 28 by a similar margin. Voting began at Chrysler plants on October 25.

The Ford and General Motors contracts are virtually the same, including signing bonuses, productivity bonuses, and “inflation protection” bonuses, but no increases in the wages for workers hired before the September 2007 contract.

The second tier of workers, hired in September 2007 or after, will get a $3.50 wage increase over the four years of the contract. Their wages will be capped at $19.28 per hour, just 70 percent of what more senior workers get.

The Militant spoke with a few workers at Chicago’s assembly plant where union members voted 77 percent to reject the contract.

“I’d like to have the cost of living increase back in my base wage,” said Sue Margraf, a toolmaker with 22 years of seniority. “They are trying to buy us with the bonuses.”

The new contract allows the auto companies to reduce their hourly labor rate by hiring thousands of workers at lower wages. Some of the jobs they fill will be new, while others will replace veteran workers paid to retire early with buyouts of between $10,000 and $100,000.

“I voted for the contract,” explained John Williams, a utility worker with 13 years at the plant. “It took care of my needs. My doctor visits went down from $75 to $20. The money is OK, because house and car are paid for. But I have a family with medical issues.”

“We gave a bunch of concessions last time and they made $6 billion in profits last year,” said Thomas Daughterty, a relief worker with 17 years of seniority. “I’d like to see my son work at Ford, but I’m not sure of the $19 cap on wages.”

“When they divide workers into competing groups, that’s when we get into trouble,” said Noel Juarez, an assembly worker for 11 years. “I think it started when the union let the auto companies build new nonunion plants in the South. And now first-tier workers and second-tier workers are permanently divided.”
Related articles:
‘Without better contract, we’ll continue fighting’
1,300 battle bosses’ union-busting campaign
Victorious India auto strike unites ‘permanent’ and ‘temp’ workers
On the Picket Line  
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