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UAW mounts push for passage of Ford deal

Michael Martinez and Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers is gearing up for an 11th-hour push for ratification of its tentative labor contract with Ford Motor Co. after calling an out-of-the-ordinary Wednesday press conference in the midst of voting.

UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles, Local 600 President Bernie Ricke and other local union leaders are expected to attend the 11 a.m. event, where they’ll likely campaign for more “yes” votes from a local that could play a key role in the ratification — or defeat — of the deal.

Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry & Labor Group, said she doesn’t recall the union ever holding a press conference in the middle of voting. “The margin’s not very fat right now,” she said. “If they take a defeat at a big plant, I don’t know if the margin will hold in favor.”

The Detroit News estimates that roughly 60 percent of Ford’s 52,900 hourly workers have had the opportunity to vote. The vote appears to be about evenly split, according to unofficial News estimates.

While early votes were heavily in favor of the deal, more recent results from major plants have been against it. The latest results came from voting that ended Tuesday at Local 862, representing roughly 9,400 workers at Louisville Assembly and Kentucky Truck. About 68 percent of production workers and 62 percent of skilled trades workers voted against the deal at Louisville, according to the union. At Kentucky Truck, about 65 percent of production and 65 percent of skilled trades voted against the deal, according to the union.

Also in voting that ended Tuesday, a 59 percent majority at Local 1250, representing 1,450 workers at Cleveland Engine, voted “no.” And a 58 percent majority at Local 1219, representing 1,100 workers at Lima Engine, voted against the deal.

In Sunday results, a 58 percent majority at Buffalo Stamping voted “no” and 53 percent majority at Kansas City Assembly — Ford’s largest plant — voted “no.”

Local 600 is the largest remaining union local to vote. It represents roughly 8,200 total workers, including about 4,300 at Dearborn Truck, which makes the F-150 pickup.

Hisham Beydoun, 48, of Dearborn, said that while the tentative agreement doesn’t give veteran workers back all of their concessions from the recession, he supports the deal.

“I like it. It’s the best we can get out of 12 years of having to get nothing,” said the 26-year union veteran Tuesday outside of Local 600 in Dearborn. “For a legacy worker like me, I got paid $28 an hour for 12 years. I didn’t see a penny. So, for me, this is something.

“Yeah, I would have liked to have seen more. Did I get everything back? No.”

Dziczek said if the deal is voted down, it is unlikely workers would get better results out of a second contract. “If you reward the ‘no’ votes by giving them more, you’re encouraging ‘no’ votes,” she said. “The investment in the Ford contract is more than FCA and GM combined. They did a lot.”

Local unions representing more than 13,500 hourly production workers were expected to finish voting Tuesday. That means more than 60 percent of the union’s 52,900 members that would be covered by the potential deal were expected to be done voting by the end of the day.

A majority of workers at Local 2280, which represents about 1,500 workers at Van Dyke Transmission, voted in favor of the deal in balloting that ended Tuesday. About 59 percent of production workers and 56 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes,” according to the union.

Other plants, including Dearborn Truck, voted Tuesday but were not expected to report results. Voting is scheduled to continue through at least Wednesday.

Joe Marx, a Local 600 member who recently was bumped up from second-tier wages, said the only thing in the four-year tentative agreement he has a problem with is the eight-year progression for entry-level workers to reach first-tier wages.

“We’ve got a lot of new people in our plant, and they’re working hard,” said Marx, 45, a UAW member of four years. “I’d like to see them come up in four years.”

Two other plants — Local 228 of Sterling Axle and Local 898 of Rawsonville — have had majorities vote “no.” Rejection at those two parts plants were somewhat expected. Workers there — and at Woodhaven Stamping — are set to make lower wages than their counterparts at assembly plants.

On Saturday, Local 588 of Chicago Stamping voted in favor of the deal. And on Friday, majorities at three plants, including Michigan Assembly, voted yes. Thursday results came from a couple of smaller plants and results were mixed.

Ford voting continues as crosstown rival General Motors Co. talks to UAW leaders about problems that skilled trades workers had with the GM-UAW tentative agreement. Overall, 55.4 percent of GM union members overall vote “yes” on the tentative agreement. But the deal could not immediately be ratified because 59.5 percent of skilled trades workers — who represent about 16 percent of GM’s 52,600 hourly workers — voted “no.”

UAW GM Vice President Cindy Estrada said Nov. 20 is the new deadline for ratification of the tentative agreement; it had been Nov. 13.

A four-year deal between the union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was overwhelmingly ratified by 40,000 UAW members in October. The ratification came after a first deal was overwhelming rejected by a majority of members.

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