After being embarrassed during the last ratification vote on a contract that was rejected by an overwhelming margin, the United Auto Workers is taking a slow approach as it deals with the second ratification vote.
The union leadership is also getting some critical assistance this time around from inside and outside of the union. The first agreement was rejected by more than 10,000 votes. It was the first time in 33 years that union members had voted down a contract at the old Chrysler Group.
One of the groups critical of the contract the first time around, the Autoworkers Caravan, has elected to remain neutral during the second vote, rather than campaign against the contract. Voting on the second proposed agreement is scheduled to start this coming weekend and wrap up by the middle of the week.
While not exactly endorsing the new tentative agreement, the decision by the Autoworker’s Caravan not to oppose the agreement removes a significant source of opposition from the new campaign
In a leaflet circulated this week in plants and via social media, the group also noted the second tentative agreement, which was forced by the rejection of the first tentative contract, represented a step forward in the effort to protect the industry’s traditional wage structure from the long-range plans for Fiat Chrysler NV Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne.
“We destroyed the idea that the wages of tier-one workers hired before 2007 would disappear as they retired. The membership standing together against a divisive contract resulted in a path for second-tier workers to eventually reach top pay. FCA wanted to make first tier obsolete. We stopped the $72-million dollar man in his tracks,” the leaflet said with a reference to the $72 million compensation package Marchionne collected last year.
(Ford deal won’t be carbon copy of FCA contract with UAW. For more, Click Here.)
The UAW’s leadership, however, isn’t taking any chances.
The union confirmed for TheDetroitBureau.com it has brought in an outside public relations firm from New York, BerlinRosen, with a history of helping unions and other liberal groups, to aid in the campaign to get the second tentative contract ratified.
“We heard from UAW FCA members that they wanted the union to provide regular updates and detailed information about the tentative agreement, and we are responding by increasing our communications with members, especially on social media,” a UAW spokesman said.
“We are making regular updates on our website and Facebook page, and local leaders across the country are beginning to hold informational sessions in plants so that members can fully understand what is – and isn’t – in the new tentative agreement. The UAW has a long relationship with experts like BerlinRosen, and to best serve our members, we are engaged to make sure we get important information to members,” the spokesman said.
The preliminary indications are the effort is paying dividends. An informational meeting organized by UAW Local 12 in Toledo, Ohio, was relatively placid compared with the one held last month. Union members leaving the meeting seemed satisfied with the contract, according to an account in the Toledo Blade.
(UAW taking heat for second iteration of FCA contract. For more, Click Here.)
More than 80% of Local 12 members had voted to reject the first tentative agreement and their approval is critical this time in deciding the fate of the second tentative agreement, which creates a path for workers to reach first tier wages after eight years of employment with the FCA. The second agreement also includes a pay increase for workers hired before 2007, a larger signing bonus and a richer profit sharing.
FCA US also was forced to agree to review workers complaints about the World Class Manufacturing system touted by Marchionne as one of the keys to the company’s comeback and the use of the alternative work schedule.
The union dissidents have largely succeeded in putting new limits on Marchionne’s efforts to re-make the company’s labor practices. They are also promising to fight future changes and to campaign to end concessions to the company’s management.
(For more on why the original FCA-UAW contract was rejected, Click Here.)
“However we vote this time, the conflict between us and the bosses does not begin and end with a ratification vote. It is 24-7. As the rank and file we must prepare for the fight that lies ahead of us: to win back for the young generation the gains that past generations won for us through struggle and sacrifice,” noted the leaflet, which was largely drafted by current FCA employees.