The UAW has endorsed a proposed contract with Ford, but some of its members are balking.
They are particularly upset that the contract freezes wages for senior workers, the ones who gave back the most in the crisis. And they are very angry about the exorbitant bonuses given to Ford’s top management back in April.
So the new pact has created much controversy, which you can follow at the UAW Ford Department’s Facebook page.
The voting reflects this. Workers at a Chicago assembly plant (above) voted 77 percent to reject the contract; other plants have voted in favor. As of 11:30 Friday morning, the ayes have 50.8 percent, the nays 49.2, per the union’s Facebook page. But the 6,000 workers at the Rouge (Detroit) plant haven’t voted yet, and their tally won’t be known until the weekend.
Now we have a situation where, if the contract is voted down, there will be calls for a strike, since Ford was not party to the no-strike provision that GM and Chrysler had to sign.
And, by the way, the union’s recent agreements with Chrysler and GM were, by all accounts, less generous in some ways than the one signed by Ford. That agreement includes some $16 billion to produce “new and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015,” said the union.
But issues remain over how that bread is to be spread. Many voters are divided, but there is tremendous resentment over the $26.5 million bonuses (each) and stock options for Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Alan Mulally.
At a time when the Wall Street protests are all over the news, this issue could indeed topple the ratification process. Ford management is not helping matters with talk of restoring dividends and potential sales increases of 50 percent.
As an old protester, I would love to see the union go out on strike, which would generate a lot of sympathy in some quarters. But I think the odds are in favor of renewed contract talks—if the rank and file turns this one down. And a strike, as always, would hurt the members more than the company, which, despite its debt, is sitting on piles of cash.
Although there has been strike talk from some union officials, neither side has much to gain by it. Frequently, it’s the early voters who make the strongest protests, and another round of talks may well result in fewer jobs and benefits.
How would you feel about a strike at Ford?