Ratification bumpy for UAW-Chrysler contract
Union workers at Chrysler LLCís third-largest U.S. assembly plant
overwhelmingly rejected the tentative Chrysler-UAW contract in a
ratification vote Thursday, Oct. 18.
About 81 percent of the voting workers at the St. Louis North assembly
plant said no to the accord that UAW leadership agreed to after a
six-hour strike this month.
The vote presages rough sledding for the contract at several other large
Chrysler locals whose leaders oppose the accord. The UAW hopes to wrap
up ratification voting for the 48,000 affected workers by Wednesday,
Nearly 8,000 more workers are scheduled to vote today, according to
A source in St. Louis said workers mainly were concerned about the
introduction of a lower wage and benefit package for new hires. They
also were concerned about a plan to designate up to a third of all
factory jobs as noncore, meaning new hires to those jobs would start at
the lower-tier wage of $14 an hour or about half of what production
workers earn, the source said.
In another vote Thursday, the contract was ratified at Chryslerís
Kenosha Engine operation in Wisconsin by the 800 factory members of UAW
Local 72. It was approved 82 to 18 percent, said Curt Wilson, shop
chairman at Local 72.
Local officials in St. Louis were stunned by the margin of the
rejection. About 1,400 of the plantís 2,300 UAW workers voted. The plant
makes Dodge Ram pickups.
The source said St. Louis South, where minivans are made, also would
likely reject the deal. The plant employs about 2,850.
Tom Littlejohn, president of Chryslerís Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant,
also has been vocal in his opposition. Belvidere, with about 3,000 UAW
workers, makes the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass and Patriot.
The unofficial leader of the contract opposition, Bill Parker, is
president of another big local, UAW Local 1700, at Chryslerís Sterling
Heights, Mich., assembly plant. Sterling Heights, which employs more
than 2,000, builds the Chrysler Sebring, Sebring convertible and Dodge
Parker put together a ďminority reportĒ of the accord last week, saying
the UAW should go back to the bargaining table to get a better deal.
In Kenosha, Wilson said workers there saw good and bad in the contract
but thought it was the best deal possible to protect jobs.
He said terms can be revisited in four years during the next contract
negotiations if conditions improve at Chrysler. The automaker has
struggled with losses as consumers have chosen more fuel-efficient cars
instead of Chrysler products, which are dominated by trucks, SUVs and
In a separate but related development, Chrysler plans to cut more than
1,110 contract workers and 1,000 salaried jobs, a person briefed on the
Chrysler's current restructuring plan, announced in February when the
automaker was put up for sale by Daimler, included cuts of 13,000 jobs ó
including 2,000 salaried jobs ó as part of a bid to return to
profitability by 2009.