UAW FCA members overwhelmingly ratify labor deal

Michael Wayland, Michael Martinez and Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

An overwhelming majority of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 40,000 United Auto Workers members voted in favor of a new four-year labor contract that includes raises for all workers and a $5.3 billion investment in North American plants.

The union on Thursday confirmed that 77 percent of production workers voted “yes” on the deal; skilled trades supported it by 72 percent; and salaried bargaining was at 87 percent. The results come three weeks after union membership resoundingly rejected the first tentative agreement between the two sides by a two-to-one margin.

“The recent bargaining process that took place on behalf of our members at FCA is a testament to the UAW’s democratic values and commitment to our members,” said UAW President Dennis Williams in a statement. “The resolve of our membership and the dedication of our negotiating team has produced an agreement that affords UAW members a strong wage package and job security while still allowing the company to competitively produce high quality vehicles for our customers.”

Fiat Chrysler said it was “pleased” about the ratification, and it’s now time to “look forward to continuing to build world-class products, investing in our operations and achieving the targets set out in our five year business plan.”

“This agreement represents an investment in our U.S. workforce and recognizes its contributions to the company’s growth over the past six years,” the company said in a statement.

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell described the deal as a “strong agreement that provides substantial wage gains, fairness in the workplace, and job security.”

A second rejection would have been unprecedented in the modern automotive industry. The union will now have to decide to shift attention to General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. or both.

The official results come nearly 12 hours after The Detroit News reported the deal was expected to be ratified, with more than 70 percent of ballots were cast in support of the pact at several facilities. The closest voting results available was at the Toledo Assembly Complex, where 55 percent of production and 52 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.” Production workers at all major assembly plants in Metro Detroit supported the deal by at least 70 percent.

“I think the second version of the tentative agreement addressed many of the workers’ concerns and that’s evident in their strong ratification,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry and labor group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “There was a clearer path to top tier wages for the current second-tier workers.”

Many Fiat Chrysler workers voiced opposition to the first deal because it did not bridge a gap between entry-level and veteran workers. They were concerned about a lack of detail on product plans at plants and a proposed health care co-op. Many were angry about a lack of communication with members.

The main changes from the rejected deal include a path that over time would end a highly contested two-tier pay system; a new profit-sharing formula; and a bigger ratification bonus for veteran workers.

“It’s a little bit better,” Jeannetta Thompson, a second-tier worker at Warren Truck Assembly Plant, said while voting was still in progress. “You can’t expect to get everything all at once.”

Under the new agreement, second-tier workers would be boosted in steps over eight years to about $29 an hour or more, depending on the job — the same as veteran first-tier workers. The $30 rate is an increase from $25.35 under the rejected contract, and is $10 more than their current ceiling of $19.28 an hour.

Here are voting results obtained by The News for individual plants. The 12 plants employ 34,000 of the 40,000 workers – 85 percent – who are covered by the contract:

■UAW Local 7, which represents Jefferson North Assembly: 86 percent of production and 66 of skilled workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 12, which represents Toledo Assembly Complex: 55 percent of production and 52 of skilled workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 140, which represents Warren Truck: 70 percent of workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 372, which represents Trenton Engine: 73 percent of production and 70 of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 685, which represents several plants in Indiana: 55 percent of production and 52 of skilled workers voted “yes” (according to media reports).

■UAW Local 723, which represents employees at Dundee Engine: 91 percent of production and 85 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 869, which represents Warren Stamping: 82 percent of production and 66 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1166, which represents Kokomo Casting: 89 percent of production and 90 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1264, which represents Sterling Stamping: 84 percent of production and 64 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1268, which represents Belvidere Assembly: 83 percent of production and 62 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1435, which represents Toledo Machining: 63 percent of production and skilled trades workers, 100 percent of office and clerical workers, and 95 percent voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1700, which represents Toledo Assembly Complex: 78 percent of production and 66 of skilled workers voted “yes.”

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