Opposition grows for UAW-Fiat Chrysler deal
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article had reports of Dundee Engine voting down the tentative agreement. The facility has reportedly approved the contract.
Opposition toward the tentative four-year contract between the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles continued to mount heading into the weekend, as a majority of workers from at least two more union locals voted against the deal.
An overwhelming majority of workers for both Trenton Engine Complex and Toledo Machinery on Friday cast ballots rejecting the deal, joining a casting plant in Kokomo, Indiana and Sterling Stamping as major facilities against the agreement.
While there also were reports as of late Friday of Dundee Engine approving the deal, Local 685 in Kokomo, which represents nearly 6,000 workers at several facilities, having most workers vote “no” on the deal. The Detroit Free Press reported 77 percent of the production workers and 65 percent of skilled trades workers who cast ballots voted “no” in Kokomo.
Officials with Local 685 could not be reached or declined to comment when reached late Friday. Officials with Local 7, which represents Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, also declined comment or could not be reached after its more than 4,000 members voted on Friday.
Trenton Engine, which employs about 1,300 hourly members, reported 80 percent of production workers and 71 percent of skilled trades workers voted “no,” according to Local 372.
Amalgamated Local 1435 for Toledo Machining also reported nearly three out of four ballots cast were against the contract, as 71.5 percent of workers voted “no.” The number of Fiat Chrysler workers represented at the plant was not immediately available, nor was a breakdown of voting for production workers and skilled trades workers.
But voting isn’t close to being complete for the 40,000 members impacted by the contract. Large facilities with thousands of members each such as Sterling Heights Assembly, Toledo Assembly Complex, Warren Truck Plant and Belvidere Assembly in Illinois all still have to vote. Those four facilities combined employ more than 16,000 UAW hourly members, according to Fiat Chrysler.
Many workers have voiced displeasure with the proposed deal because it does not eliminate the contentious two-tier pay system; fails to cap entry-level hires; doesn’t do enough to address alternative work schedules; and doesn’t increase wages enough.
“I don’t think it’s a very good contract,” Carlos Rodriguez, a 16-year veteran worker at the Trenton Engine Complex, said Friday. “They didn’t even bring us up to what we already lost.”
Rodriguez mentioned the cost-of-living adjustment, lower signing bonus and a 6 percent pay increase over the life of the proposed deal for veteran workers who haven’t had a raise in a decade as examples of unmet expectations.
Many also have voiced concerns about a lack of information about a new union-led health care co-op, which UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell has said will not increase charges to members.
“The health care is a big concern, said Curt Cherry, a 21-year veteran worker at Trenton Engine. “We’re signing a blank piece of paper for them to fill in afterward.”
The contract includes $3,000 ratification bonuses (down from $3,500 in 2011), wage increases for both tiers of plant workers, hefty profit-sharing based on the company’s North American operations, and $5.3 billion in plant investments. It narrows pay gaps between entry and veteran workers.
Workers who voted at Jefferson North had mixed feelings about the proposed four-year contract.
John Szwed, a 22-year veteran at the plant, said he thought the contract was “a good step in the right direction” after years of concessions.
“I don’t think it’s a bad deal at all; they’ve been worse,” said the worker from Taylor who is in the top tier of wage-earners. “We’re getting things back. I’m grateful to have my job.”
Lee Smith, a 52-year-old from Flint who is paid lower tier-two wages, said he voted “yes” and expects the contract to be ratified: “It’s a great start.”
Skilled trades and production workers must separately cast a majority of “yes” ballots for the contract to be ratified.
If the contract is not ratified, leaders could go back to the bargaining table with Fiat Chrysler; a strike could occur; or the union could switch their attention to Ford Motor Co. or General Motors Co., with which the UAW continues negotiating after contracts were extended indefinitely last week.
Union leaders — including Jewell, head of the union’s Chrysler Department — have been meeting with local units to answer questions and address concerns since details of the contract were released Sept. 18.
Locals with most workers opposed to the deal that voted Friday join at least four others — including two in Metro Detroit — with a majority of members were against the deal, which was reached between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler on Sept. 15.
More than half of skilled trades and production workers for Local 1264 in Sterling Heights and Local 1248 in Warren on Thursday opposed the proposed deal, while voting in Indiana garnered mixed results.
For Sterling Stamping, 61 percent of skilled trades and 57 percent of production workers voted “no,” according to results posted by Local 1264 on social media.
At Local 1248, which represents Mopar workers, 52 percent of skilled trades workers voted against the deal, while 65 percent of production workers voted “no,” according to results confirmed by a member.
At Kokomo Casting, skilled trades workers were split at 50 percent, while 59 percent of production workers voted against the deal, two Local 1166 members said on social media. An official spokesperson with the Kokomo unit could not be reached to confirm the results late Thursday. According to Fiat Chrysler, the plant employs more than 1,100 hourly workers.
UAW Local 1302 is one of the only units to support the proposed deal. President George Maus earlier this week said in an update to his members that a majority of salaried workers at facilities in Kokomo voted in favor of the deal. The ratification update did not provide voting percentages. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Local 1302 represents nearly 350 workers.
Staff writer Michael Martinez contributed.
UAW/Fiat Chrysler voting results
Local 7 - Jefferson North
Local 230 - Los Angeles parts
Local 372 - Trenton Engine
Local 685 - Kokomo/Tipton
Local 1166 - Kokomo Casting
Local 1248 - Mopar Warren
Local 1264 - Sterling Stamping
Local 1435 - Toledo Machining
Source: Detroit News research