The United Auto Workers held a hastily called press conference Wednesday morning in an effort to intimidate workers and reverse the tide of growing opposition at Ford before voting ends Friday. Ford and the union need a simple majority of 52,900 UAW members Ford employs to ratify the proposed contract.
Scott Houldieson, vice president of Local 551 in Chicago, said workers rejecting the contract in general believe it does not make up for sacrifices they made when Ford lost billions during an automotive industry downturn that included 2009 bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler, which is now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Over the course of last week, the UAW was able to procure letters of clarification from GM over some language in the contract over which some skilled trades workers brought up concerns.
The UAW argues that workers at those plants make products that compete directly with suppliers and said the lower wage at those plants helps to preserve jobs and prevented Ford from closing those plants.
The proposed contract also included a $200-million investment at the Kansas City plant to keep making the F-150 pickup and the Transit commercial van, which is a new product for the plant.
The workers at the Ohio Assembly Plant, which straddles Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake and Sheffield, ratified the contract by a vote of 51 percent.
The negotation team is trying convince union members to think long term and that a $9 billion investment into Ford plants is job security. The automaker pledged to invest $30 million in the Woodlawn plant.
Settles said he was “optimistic” that it would ultimately be ratified once workers at all of Ford’s plants across the nation have voted. The factory builds the F-150, the best-selling nameplate in the USA auto market and one of Ford’s most profitable models. But according to reports in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, close to a third of eligible workers have voted. Veteran workers will receive two 3 percent wage increases in years one and three of the contract, and two 4 percent lump sum payments in years two and four.
UAW leaders have clashed with the rank and file at all of the Detroit Big Three automakers. The deal would work toward eliminating the “two-tier” workforce, under which new employees could not hope to match the wages of long-term employees.
“If you don’t have the investment, it doesn’t matter what you negotiate in wages”, said Ricke.
Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst at the Center for Automotive Research, said Ford is not likely to spend more money on a richer contract overall if the two sides return to the bargaining table. The NLRB rejected VW’s request that all maintenance and production workers be included in the election.
Frank Morris is the national correspondent for KCUR. Normally, the UAW does not like to talk to the media while workers are voting on a national contract.