UAW-Ford deal coming down to final votes

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

The fate of a tentative four-year labor deal between Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers will come down to the roughly 8,200 members of UAW Local 600 at the automaker’s historic Rouge Complex, who finish voting Friday.

Local 600 represents Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant, where the F-150 pickup is made, as well as a number of other engine and powertrain facilities. It’s the site of the infamous 1937 “Battle of the Overpass” at which Ford security assaulted Walter Reuther and union organizers, and now its workers will determine whether a lucrative contract will be accepted or torn up and sent back for renegotiation.

So far, the deal has been met with anger from a workforce that has voiced concern over an eight-year progression to top wages, use of temporary workers, treatment of retirees and lower wages for parts workers. The Detroit News estimates roughly 53 percent of Ford’s 52,900 hourly union members so far have voted against the contract.

The most recent results includes a 68 percent majority voting against the deal at Local 551, which represents about 4,000 workers at Chicago Assembly. Narrow majorities approved it at two other plants: 51 percent voted “yes” at Local 3000, representing about 3,000 workers at Flat Rock Assembly; 51 percent also voted “yes” at Local 863, which represents 1,600 workers at a Sharonville, Ohio, transmission plant.

On Wednesday, the union launched a last-ditch effort to save the deal, as UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles and Local 600 President Bernie Ricke touted the contract’s benefits, which include $9 billion in plant investments; 8,500 jobs created or retained; raises for all workers; and $1,000 for retirees over the course of the four-year deal.

“It’s a significant amount of money,” Ricke said. “There’s significant economic improvement for the in-progression people, there’s significant economic improvement for the traditional, and there’s investment. You have to have a blend of those.”

The Rouge Complex stands to receive $415 million in new investment and 400 new jobs, the union said.

Ricke said the UAW is trying to balance improvements for its members against putting Ford at a financial disadvantage with other companies, which could result in the company moving jobs and products overseas.

“I think there’s pent-up frustration,” he said. “We went through some bad economic times and they see the company making billions of dollars now. But it’s our job to educate them in a way about the delicate balance; at the end of the day if you get $50 an hour, if you don’t have a job it doesn’t mean anything.”

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