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Despite Fears of Rejection, Workers at Ford, GM Ratify Contracts

Approval frees union leaders to shift focus to new organizing efforts.

by on Nov.21, 2015

GM and UAW officials shown on July 13, 2015 marking the opening of contract talk.

Workers at both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors voted to accept each of their new four-year contract offers, in the process ending what had turned into an unexpectedly contentious round of negotiations – workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles soundly rejecting their own first contract offer.

A variety of offers pitted not only the United Auto Workers Union against Detroit’s Big Three but also saw the UAW having to fend off more militant members of the union. Starting with President Dennis Williams on down, Autoworkers leaders mobilized to sell a revised Chrysler contract. But they continued to run into trouble even with more lucrative offers from GM and Ford.

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At the smaller of the two, 51.3% of production workers and 52.4% of Ford’s skilled tradesmen voted for the contract. Among other things, that vote will earn 53,000 Ford workers ratification bonuses of $8,500.

“Through a fair and democratic process UAW-Ford members have delivered job security and strong economic gains for their families and communities,” said Jimmy Settles, vice president of the UAW’s Ford department.


GM, UAW in it “Together” as Contract Talks Open

But “I’m not afraid of confrontation,” says union chief.

by on Jul.13, 2015

Handshakes and smiles mark the opening of GM-UAW contract talks. Shown in front: GM CEO Barra, UAW Pres. Williams, GM negotiator Clegg and UAW bargaining chief Estrada.

Compared to the last time they squared off four years ago, there was a very different mood in the air as negotiators from General Motors and the United Auto Workers shook hands and offered smiles for the cameras Monday morning, marking the start of their quadrennial contract talks.

As they sat down to hammer out a new contract in 2011, the memory of the devastating recession that drove GM into bankruptcy was still fresh. This time, the giant automaker is generating billions in profits and looking to grow even more. But the UAW clearly wants to get its share of that growth, especially for new GM employees who have been stuck in second-tier status that, noted union Pres. Dennis Williams, barely makes them qualify as middle-class.

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In nearly identical blue shirts, Williams and GM CEO Mary Barra wore matching smiles and spoke repeatedly about working ”together” to find “creative solutions. But while he cautioned that a strike was not a goal but a sign of failure, Williams also declared “I’m not afraid of confrontation” during a media Q&A session.


Top Labor Negotiators Leave GM, FCA

Departures highlight differences in upcoming union talks.

by on Jun.11, 2015

Cathy Clegg is taking over as the lead negotiator for GM in its talks with the UAW for the recently retired Rex Blackwell.

Even as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne pushes for merger talks with rival General Motors, the two companies are on different paths when it comes to negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

GM has carefully orchestrated a series of announcements of new investments in plants in places such as: Pontiac, Lansing and Grand Rapids, Michigan, plus Arlington, Texas, and Kansas City, Kansas, in recent weeks.

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In each case, the announcement, which have involved several GM executives, including GM CEO Mary Barra, have underscored the company’s commitment to preserving and even adding jobs at plants in the U.S., covered by the automaker’s labor contract with the United Auto Workers. (more…)

Chrysler Commits to 2,100 More Jobs, $4.5 Bil Investment

But new UAW contract puts less cash in workers’ pockets.

by on Oct.12, 2011

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announcing the pay-off of the maker's federal bailout in May.

As part of its new contract with the United Auto Workers Union, Chrysler will invest $4.5 billion in new vehicles and technology, including two compact models based on Fiat products that will be built at the automaker’s assembly plants in Michigan and Illinois.

But the deal – which also guarantees at least 2,100 new jobs – comes with a price.  The union agreed to accept a smaller signing bonus than at General Motors or Ford Motor Co. to help the company achieve financial stability. And only half the $3,500 bonus will be paid immediately upon ratification while the balance will be paid after the company reaches financial stability.

The provision reduces the upfront cost of the contract which also includes a pay increase for second tier workers and limited changes in the health care plans. An additional $1,000 annual bonus also will be deferred until the company is in better financial health, the union said.

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The agreement was reached after a series of bruising meeting between UAW President Bob King and Chrysler/Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne, who had hoped to reduce the cost of the pact while preserving the company’s working relationship with the union. King had said he wasn’t looking for a confrontation with Chrysler but wanted his members to see the contract as fair.

“It’s a new day at Chrysler,” said King, officially confirming the settlement, which came almost a month after the original September 14th deadline.


UAW Ratifies GM Contract by 2-1 Margin

Talks pick up pace at Ford, Chrysler.

by on Sep.28, 2011

UAW President Bob King confirmed the GM contract had been ratified by a 2-1 margin.

The United Auto Workers Union’s rank-and-file has approved a new four-year contract with General Motors by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

The new four-year contract is effective immediately and also is expected to lead to the creation of 6,500 new jobs over the next couple of years at GM plants in the U.S. – perhaps more as it may prompt GM to bring work back to the U.S. from Mexico and Canada.

The final vote tally was 65% in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63% in favor among skilled trades workers. Retirees, many of whom were angered by contract lack of pension improvements, were not eligible to vote.

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The vote in favor of the contract while more than enough to ensure passage was actually  low by historical standards, indicating a sizeable number of union members were dissatisfied with the pact.  And it suggests the union could face rugged ratification votes after it settles contracts with Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC


UAW Turns to Ford; Chrysler Talks on Hold

Ford, Chrysler may resist union efforts to duplicate GM contract.

by on Sep.22, 2011

UAW Pres. Bob King shakes hands with Ford Chairman Bill Ford as negotiations open in July.

The United Auto Workers union plans to make Ford Motor Co. the focus of the next round of negotiations in its drive to fashion new contracts with domestic automakers as talks with Chrysler are placed on hold.

Chrysler officials have confirmed that the UAW has extended the maker’s contract until October 19th.  Earlier this month, as the September 14th deadline loomed, there were signs Chrysler might, in fact, be the maker likely to come up with the first settlement with the UAW. But a last-minute snag appeared to scuttle the talks and the union went on to reach agreement with General Motors.

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“We look forward to working with the UAW on a new tentative agreement that is fair to our employees and allows Ford to become more competitive,” Ford said in a statement late Wednesday.


Former Saturn Plant to Reopen, But No Pension Improvements Under New GM Contract

Deal could make it easier to now target the transplants.

by on Sep.20, 2011

The new GM contract will bring the reopening of the shuttered Spring Hill, TN plant -- and the addition of over 6,000 jobs.

General Motors Co. is obligated to reopen its assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. under the terms of its tentative new labor agreement with the United Auto Workers Union.

Union officials also said Tuesday they expect the new four-year GM contract — which is worth $12,000 per employee over the life of the agreement — will serve as the pattern for new labor pacts with both Chrysler Group and Ford Motor Co.  But which of those makers will be targeted next remains uncertain.

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“In these uncertain economic times for American workers and faced with the globalization of the economy, the UAW approached these negotiations with new strategies and fought for and achieved some of our major goals for our members, “ said UAW president Bob King after the agreement was endorsed unanimously by the union’s GM council.

The agreement includes a $5,000 signing bonus due upon ratification by 48,000 GM worker s. In addition, workers will receive a $1,000 lump sum payment, each year starting in 2012 to cover any increase in the cost of living — and an annual bonus of $250 bonus if certain quality targets are met.


UAW Lands Big Gains – While GM Also Meets Key Demands

A closer look at the first of the new Big Three contracts.

by on Sep.19, 2011

Now that GM has settled, the UAW will have to focus on Chrysler and Ford - union chief Bob King shown here with Ford CEO Bill Ford.

Negotiators for General Motors and the United Auto Workers Union might have missed their deadline but the settlement they worked out – peacefully – late last Friday appears to be one that qualifies as the clichéd Win-Win for both labor and management.

Official details won’t be released until tomorrow, after UAW bargainers meet with the local union leaders who’ll have to sell the agreement to the rank-and-file.  But significant details are already leaking out and was able to pull together enough to get a clear understanding of why both sides are pleased with what they’ve hammered out.

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The agreement meets some of the union’s key demands, such as a large signing bonus, improved profit-sharing and increases for new workers hired in under a second-tier wage structure.  At the same time, GM will see steps taken to improve the productivity of its U.S. plants, and it appears likely the maker will actually be able to place even more workers, going forward, into the lower, Tier 2 wage category.


GM, UAW Reach Late Night Deal; Chrysler Next?

Workers make modest but significant gains.

by on Sep.17, 2011

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King shaking hands at the start of the latest round of contract talks, in July.

The United Auto Workers Union and General Motors said Friday they had reached agreement on a new labor contract late Friday night that includes a new profit-sharing formula and other modest gains for workers – but which also appears to promise improvements for the automaker.

Details of the settlement were being withheld, pending ratification meetings with local union leaders. The UAW’s existing contract with the GM expired Wednesday but the union was barred from striking under the terms of the $49.5 billion federal bailout of GM in 2009.

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“We are proud of this tentative agreement,” declared UAW President Bob King.

The UAW will now have to work out settlements with both Chrysler and Ford.  Talks with the latter maker were put on hold earlier in the week.  A settlement with Chrysler seemed imminent, several days ago, before a clash between union President Bob King and the maker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne became public.


UAW May Skip Strike Deadline in Talks With Detroit Big Three

“Creative problem solving” is goal, says union boss Bob King, not confrontation.

by on Apr.26, 2011

The UAW is seeking "creative" solutions, said Pres. Bob King during a meeting with reporters.

The United Auto Workers Union will put the emphasis on “creative problem solving,” rather than confrontation as it reopens contract talks, this summer, with Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Intent on putting aside the traditional hardball tactics that have defined automotive labor/management relations over the last 75 years, UAW President Bob King said union negotiators may not even set a strike target as they approach their mid-September deadline.  But that would be a limited option anyway, he acknowledged, as terms of the government’s 2009 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler mean that only Ford could even be threatened with a walkout this year.

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During a meeting of the Detroit Automotive Press Association, the UAW president meanwhile offered both a carrot and a stick to companies like Toyota, who have managed to so far avoid union organizing efforts.  Give workers a fair chance to vote, King promised, and the union will accept the results, win or lose.  But resisting calls for an election, he asserted, could lead to a global boycott.

“Creative problem solving,” said King, “is the ideal we’re both striving for.”  Confrontation, he insisted, was a thing of the past.