UAW agrees to contract with Ford: How much did the union give up?
UAW workers at Ford from across the US voted late Tuesday to accept a four-year contract with the automaker. The vote pitted today's labor costs against future union membership.
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The two-tier system in 2007 was “a massive philosophical change for the UAW” and signified the organization was becoming more willing to cooperate with the domestic automakers in order to keep their membership numbers solvent and prevent further labor cuts.Skip to next paragraph
“The whole game has changed. The main issue for bargaining now is job security,” Mr. Smith says.
Workers at Ford’s dual assembly and parts stamping operations in Chicago rejected the contract last week, despite a pledge by the company to add about 2,000 new jobs and over $200 million in plant investments. However the contract’s ultimate passage was seen as a win to the local and state economies. In a statement released Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said “Ford’s increased presence in Chicago bolsters [the city’s] economic competitiveness.”
Overall, Ford is adding 12,000 new hourly jobs to its US operations by 2015 and a total of $16 billion in infrastructure improvements.
Even when the economy improves, UAW workers should not expect a return to the earlier era when they were guaranteed certain pay and benefit packages and were not necessarily forced to share in the long-term success of the company, says Marick Masters, director of the Douglas A. Fraser Center for Workplace Issues and Labor at Wayne State University in Detroit.
“What you’re going to see is a continuing effort to reward a leaner workforce in a way that doesn’t balloon the fixed costs of the company,” Mr. Masters says.
Striking will also be a riskier choice for the union, especially if it comes at a time when the public at large is suffering form high unemployment and job insecurity. In this current negotiation cycle, Ford is the only domestic automaker that had the option to strike.
“The public is going to look at people who, in their mind, have good paying jobs and they’ll say. ‘You want to risk these jobs by going on strike to gain something that we can’t even begin to achieve?’ I think they would look on that as the height of irresponsibility,” Masters says.
The UAW has already reached a successful agreement with General Motors, whose workers approved their contract last month. UAW workers at Chrysler begin voting on their contract Tuesday and are expected to finish voting by the end of next week.
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