Chrysler UAW Contract Rejected by Bigger Union Locals
By Mike Ramsey and John Lippert
Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) ## Chrysler LLC’s contract with the United Auto Workers has been rejected by most large union locals representing auto-assembly plants during the first four days of voting and supported by smaller groups, dimming prospects for the accord’s approval.
Workers at a Jeep assembly plant today became the latest factory employees to turn down the contract, the Detroit News said. Three other Detroit-area union locals, most of them office employees, voted in favor, the News said.
Assembly workers are resisting because UAW President Ron Gettelfinger wasn’t able to secure work for Chrysler plants as far into the future as he did for General Motors Corp. factories last month, said Bill Parker, chief of the UAW committee that negotiated the Chrysler contract and an opponent of the deal.
“I think we’ll see some real hardball if they turn this down,'’ said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, referring to Cerberus Capital Management LP. The New York private-equity firm bought Chrysler from the former DaimlerChrysler AG in August.
Four of six locals that have rejected the deal represent workers at assembly plants with 1,500 or more employees, according to union officials and press reports. Most of the eight locals that have accepted have fewer than 1,000 members and don’t build vehicles.
Chrysler’s 45,000 UAW employees will vote on the four-year contract through Oct. 24. A majority of those voting must approve the contract for it to pass.
Roger Kerson, a UAW spokesman, declined to comment on the outcome of the votes.
Locals representing a sport-utility vehicle plant in Newark, Delaware, and minivan and Dodge truck plants near St. Louis were among those that turned down the contract. At each St. Louis plant, more than two-thirds of workers rejected it.
“If the Chrysler contract is voted down, Gettelfinger has to go back to the company and say, `I need more product guarantees,”’ said Dan Luria, an analyst at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth.
Dissatisfaction is growing inside the UAW because its new contract contains concessions the union has resisted for decades, Luria said.
One of the locals that passed the deal represents about 100 workers at an auto-parts depot in Georgia.
At the Jeep plant in Detroit, 57 percent of production workers and 80 percent of skilled-trades employees rejected the contract, the Detroit News reported, without saying where it got the information. The plant employs 2,200.
Workers at Locals 412 in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and 889 in Warren, which represent office workers, approved the contract by 76 and 94 percent, respectively, the News reported. The locals have a combined 2,300 people.
Local 212 in Detroit, with 750 workers, approved the contract by 85 percent, the News said. One of the three manufacturing sites represented by the local builds the low- volume Dodge Viper sports car. It is the only local with auto assembly plant workers to approve the contract.
Tomorrow, workers at Local 51, representing two engine plants in Detroit, are scheduled to vote.
Patterned After GM
Among other things, the GM and Chrysler agreements create a union fund for retiree health care, instead of imposing this responsibility solely on management. The accords also will pay new workers about half as much as the current workforce. The GM agreement followed a two-day strike and was ratified by two- thirds of workers. Chrysler employees walked out for six hours before their settlement was reached.
The UAW patterned its Chrysler agreement after GM’s, and hopes to use the same basic approach at Ford Motor Co. GM is the biggest U.S.-based automaker, followed by Ford and Chrysler.
Chrysler, of Auburn Hills, Michigan, plans new investments totaling $15 billion for 55 of its 59 UAW-represented facilities during the next four years, spokesman Mike Aberlich said in an e-mail. At GM, some UAW factories were promised they’d start building newly designed models starting in 2013.
At UAW Local 110 at the St. Louis minivan plant, 79 percent of non-skilled workers who voted rejected the contract, said Lou Moye, bargaining chairman. He declined to comment further. At UAW Local 122 at a stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, 53 percent of those who participated voted no, according to the local’s Web site.
The Associated Press reported that at the Delaware plant, 54 percent of Local 1183 workers who voted rejected the contract. The plant, which is closing in 2009, represents 1,581 workers, AP said.
At UAW Local 961, representing an axle plant in Detroit, 54 percent of workers who voted turned down the contract, the Detroit Free Press said.
Workers at Local 372 at an engine plant in Trenton, Michigan, and at Local 1435 at a machining plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, accepted the contract, the Free Press said, without giving vote totals.
Workers at the Georgia parts depot passed the accord, the Wall Street Journal said. About 200 employees at a parts depot in Milwaukee voted by a 94 percent margin in favor, the Detroit News said.
At the Dodge plant near St. Louis, 81 percent of Local 136 workers turned down the deal. At an engine plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 82 percent of Local 72 employees voted in favor.
The latest rejections may heighten pressure on Gettelfinger to push harder for votes.
Union leaders were at plants this weekend trying to persuade workers to ratify the deal, said Sean McAlinden, an analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The ratification vote is the first for Chrysler as a closely held company.
Gettelfinger and his aides belong to the Administration Caucus, a group that has controlled the union since 1946. Parker was a member of a rival group called New Directions that mounted its strongest challenge in 1989, when it sought unsuccessfully to unseat two members of the union’s international executive board.
To contact the reporter on this story: John Lippert in Southfield, Michigan, at Jlippert@bloomberg.net ; Mike Ramsey in Southfield, Michigan, at email@example.com
Last Updated: October 21, 2007 22:01 EDT