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Hours after United Auto Workers members reached an unprecedented split decision on whether to ratify a new contract with Chrysler, UAW president Bob King told PBS NewsHour there was no conflict within his ranks.

Asked about frustration following the split vote, he told host Jeffrey Brown, “You want to make – I’m sorry, but you seem like you want to make a rift where I don’t think there’s a rift.”

Earlier Wednesday, the UAW reported that 54.8 percent of hourly workers had voted in favor of ratifying a new contract with Chrysler, but that 55.6 percent of skilled-trade workers had voted against it, resulting in a split decision for the first time ever.

Nonetheless, UAW leaders met following the final tabulations and declared the contract had been ratified.

If skilled-trade workers had voted against the contract because of changes that specifically affected only their work, the UAW would have tried to renegotiate that portion, King told the Detroit Free Press. But “it was overwhelmingly clear that the issues were economic issues and not skilled-trade issues,” he said.

That final decision ostensibly concluded perhaps the most bizarre labor negotiations in memory, which started with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne publicly rebuking King in a written letter at the outset of negotiations.

And they included an unusual priority. In the past, the UAW has placed a priority in negotiating for higher pay and better benefits. But this year, the UAW’s priority was gaining jobs. Toward that end, King secured contractual commitments from the Big Three that will add 20,400 jobs by 2015.

“The number one priority in this was to create jobs in America,” King told NewsHour. “So there will be a lot of people in a lot of communities around America that are hired into middle-class jobs because of what we did in this contract.”

 

 

 


Hours after United Auto Workers members reached an unprecedented split decision on whether to ratify a new contract with Chrysler, UAW president Bob King told PBS NewsHour there was no conflict within his ranks.

Asked about frustration following the split vote, he told host Jeffrey Brown, “You want to make – I’m sorry, but you seem like you want to make a rift where I don’t think there’s a rift.”

Earlier Wednesday, the UAW reported that 54.8 percent of hourly workers had voted in favor of ratifying a new contract with Chrysler, but that 55.6 percent of skilled-trade workers had voted against it, resulting in a split decision for the first time ever.

Nonetheless, UAW leaders met following the final tabulations and declared the contract had been ratified.

If skilled-trade workers had voted against the contract because of changes that specifically affected only their work, the UAW would have tried to renegotiate that portion, King told the Detroit Free Press. But “it was overwhelmingly clear that the issues were economic issues and not skilled-trade issues,” he said.

That final decision ostensibly concluded perhaps the most bizarre labor negotiations in memory, which started with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne publicly rebuking King in a written letter at the outset of negotiations.

And they included an unusual priority. In the past, the UAW has placed a priority in negotiating for higher pay and better benefits. But this year, the UAW’s priority was gaining jobs. Toward that end, King secured contractual commitments from the Big Three that will add 20,400 jobs by 2015.

“The number one priority in this was to create jobs in America,” King told NewsHour. “So there will be a lot of people in a lot of communities around America that are hired into middle-class jobs because of what we did in this contract.”

 

 

 


Chrysler workers have reached a split decision.

A majority of United Auto Worker production members have voted to ratify a new contract with the automaker. But UAW skilled trade members rejected the deal on Wednesday afternoon.

UAW leaders discussed the vote on a 1 p.m. conference call and have not yet announced how they intend to proceed, according to the Detroit Free Press, which broke news of the split vote. No precedent exists for resolving a split vote.

“I don’t remember this ever happening,” Art Schwartz, a former GM labor negotiator, tells the newspaper. “It’s never happened in my memory in a national agreement.”

Precise results from the votes have yet to be released. CBS-TV has also reported that the tally is split.

The Soldiers of Solidarity, a splinter group within the UAW that has traditionally opposed concessions, published a laundry list of complaints about the tentative Chrysler contract on its website.

Among their complaints: No reparations are included for past concessions, no cost-of-living allowances, and no parity with the already-ratified Ford and General Motors contracts.

Chrysler’s financial position is more precarious than its fellow automakers. It lost $254 million in the first half of 2011, while GM earned a profit of $5.7 billion and Ford earned $4.9 billion.

What comes next? That’s unknown. Under terms of the federal bailout, Chrysler workers cannot strike, so it seems two options would constitute either a return to the bargaining table or binding arbitration.


While voting will not be complete until the end of the day, it appears members of the United Auto Workers will ratify a new agreement with Chrysler.

Workers at key plants in Sterling Heights, Mich., Dundee, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio have all passed the tentative contract within the last day on percentages that range from 53 to 80 percent. Voting has not yet concluded at Chrysler’s truck plant in Warren, which is considered a bellwether.

Even if Warren workers reject the contract, it may still have enough support elsewhere to pass overall, according to the Detroit News.

Unlike previous negotiations with Ford and General Motors, the UAW has not made the overall voting tallies public during Chrysler voting.

The Chrysler contract has widely expected to be the most difficult to pass of the three, because workers were offered signing bonuses of only $1,750 up front, with another $1,750 due later if the company met certain financial targets.

By comparison, Ford workers received a $6,000 signing bonus and General Motors employees received a $5,000 bonus.

But Chrysler lost $254 million in the first half of 2011, per the Detroit Free Press, while GM earned a profit of $5.7 billion and Ford earned a profit of $4.9 billion.


The mood of several workers at Ford’s engine plant in Brook Park, Ohio, sums up the mixed feelings of the company’s workers nationwide: In a tentative contract agreement Ford struck with the United Auto Workers union last week, workers feel they’re not getting enough back to compensate for concessions in previous contracts.

The contract is faltering in early voting across the country, with 54.6 percent of voters so far rejecting the deal. Thursday afternoon, the UAW Ford Department said 3,256 workers had voted yes and 3,915 had voted no. Voting on the four-year deal is expected to end Tuesday.

Results from the Cleveland-area Brook Park plant were not yet known, but an early survey of workers showed results titled against the deal, and anger toward bonuses given to executives had risen.

“I gave up $20,000 a year,” between a lack of raises and moving from skilled trades to production,” Erich Ockuly, a Brook Park worker, told The Plain Dealer. “All that so Alan Mulally could make $24 million.”

Elsewhere, employees at a Chicago Ford plant overwhelmingly rejected the contract. UAW Local 551 reported Thursday morning that 77 percent of 2,317 votes cast went against the agreement, which offered a $6,000 signing bonus but no cost-of-living adjustment. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has endorsed the contract, saying it would create 1,100 new jobs in Chicago, according to our partner station WBEZ.

In Detroit, voting was more mixed. Sixty-six percent of production workers and 64.5 percent of skilled-trade workers voted yes on the deal, according to UAW Local 228, which represents 1,740 hourly employees at Ford’s axle plant in Sterling Heights. Earlier this week, Ford workers at a stamping plant in Wayne, as 51.5 percent rejected the contract, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard discussed the flagging support of the Ford contract during a Wednesday evening appearance on PBS NewsHour.

“The Ford workers, I think they feel they deserve more,” she said. “Their company didn’t take a federal bailout, and it really isn’t in bad shape at all. It’s in the most profitable position of any of the car companies.”

That is reflected in the contract agreement: Ford workers are faced with a better deal than their counterparts at General Motors and Chrysler. Ford workers would receive a $6,000 signing bonus, while GM workers will receive a $5,000 bonus; Chrysler workers would receive $1,750 upon ratification and $1,750 after the company hits certain financial targets.

(Here’s a handy chart that compares the basics of the three UAW contracts, courtesy of the Free Press).

If Ford workers reject the contract Tuesday, the company could lock out workers, the union could strike or the two sides could return to the negotiating table.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chrysler and UAW reach deal. Eight days after reaching a tentative agreement with Ford, the United Auto Workers announced today it had reached a tentative agreement with Chrysler. As part of the deal, Chrysler has agreed to add 2,100 jobs by 2015 and invest $4.5 billion in its U.S. plants. “This tentative agreement builds on the momentum of job creation and our efforts to rebuild America,” UAW president Bob King said in a written statement. Chrysler’s 26,000 UAW members will vote on the deal in the coming days and weeks.

2. Democrats commence Walker recall effort. Next month, Democrats in Wisconsin will begin efforts to recall first-year Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party, announced the decision to pursue a recall Monday night during an MSNBC interview. Organizers must gather 540,208 valid signatures, one quarter of the votes cast in last fall’s election, within 60 days of commencing their efforts on Nov. 15, according to The New York Times. If those efforts are successful, Walker would be required to run for his office again.

3. Columbus-area tax incentives brought jobs. Six Franklin County, Ohio, companies received property-tax breaks in exchange for a promise to create 298 full-time jobs over the past seven years. They delivered more than county executives anticipated. Those companies created 665 jobs and added $32.8 million in new payroll, according to a report released Tuesday night by the county’s Tax Incentive Review Council. Leading the way, according to The Columbus Dispatch, was TS Tech North America, a seat supplier for Honda that created 310 more jobs than promised in 2004. TS Tech had received a 10-year, 50-percent tax break on taxes worth $829,000. “This is proof our staff knows what they’re doing,” county commissioner John O’Grady told the newspaper.


When contract negotiations stumbled last month between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler, the automaker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne criticized his union counterpart in a public letter. When deadlines passed, he declared new ones rather than continue open-ended extensions. Now he wants to remove a cap on the number of entry-level workers.

UAW president Bob King has already reached agreements with General Motors and Ford this fall. Negotiations with Marchionne and Chrysler will likely be the most arduous yet.

“Chrysler is in a different situation because their balance sheet isn’t as beautiful and the profits haven’t started to fall in,” Kristin Dziczek, a labor analyst at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research, tells Bloomberg News while explaining Chrysler’s harder-line stance.

According to her organization, Chrysler’s hourly labor costs, including benefits, averaged $49 per hour, compared with $56 at GM and $58 at Ford before the contract negotiations began, according to the Detroit Free Press. Chrysler has not yet returned to profitability since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009.

King said the UAW brings some leeway to the negotiating table, but that “we’re not going to give one company an economic advantage over another company,” he tells the Detroit News. “… But as flexible as we were at Ford and did some things differently, we’re flexible at Chrysler.”


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Midwest counties lead nation. Several counties in the Midwest are among the country’s biggest beneficiaries of increased employment and wages, according to new data released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Elkhart County in northern Indiana had the largest percentage increase in employment from March 2010 to March 2011 among the nation’s largest 322 counties, growing its workforce by 6.2 percent. Indiana’s overall employment increased 1.9 percent in the same time span. The next-largest increase belonged to Ottawa County in western Michigan, which grew at 4.7 percent. Peoria County, Illinois showed the largest year-over-year increase in average weekly wages, with a gain of 18.9 percent.

2. Illinois seeks Amazon taxes. Amazon.com has agreed to pay sales taxes in California. Officials are hoping that deal means the online retailer will agree to do the same in Illinois, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business today. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a letter, saying “the tide is turning” and encourages the company to begin collecting Illinois sales tax immediately. Under the California agreement, Amazon agreed to go to Washington D.C. and lobby for national legislation that regulates how internet retailers should be taxed.

3. Big Three post sales gains. Strong sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles buoyed Chrysler in September, when sales rose 27 percent. The automaker led an impressive month for Detroit’s Big Three. Despite a struggling economy, General Motors posted sales gains of 20 percent and Ford’s sales rose 9 percent. “There is no double dip downturn going on around here,” Dodge brand president and chief executive Reid Bigland told The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. At General Motors, the Chevrolet Cruze continued to be the company’s best-selling car, although the sales of the Lordstown, Ohio-built Cruze dipped below 20,000 units for the first time in five months.


Contracts covering United Auto Workers members at the Detroit auto companies expire tonight and the pace is stepping up.

Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat chief executive who also oversees Chrysler, flew back to the United States from Germany, skipping a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to the Detroit News.

UAW President Bob King says he’s confident a deal can be reached by the deadline, although it’s not unusual for talks to go on longer.

There can’t be strikes at General Motors and Chrysler, due to agreements reached when the companies received federal bailouts. And while the UAW could walk out at Ford, the cordial relationship there makes a strike highly unlikely.

So, what are the big issues at stake in these talks? I talked to WBEZ’s Venture program this week about the negotiations.

[/audio]

Essentially, there are two big issues of importance to the two sides.

One is the future of newly hired workers, who are called two-tiers within the industry. They earn sharply lower wages than veteran workers, even though they work on the same assembly line. Our Kate Davidson profiled two-tiers last year.

These workers earn about $14 an hour, versus $28 for workers who were hired a few years ago. The UAW wants that base wage to go up. The companies, however, say they need to stay competitive with non-union auto workers in the United States, and beyond, where wages as low or even lower.

The other issue is health care. Before 2007, UAW members paid very little for health care coverage. Their benefits, while not as rich now, are still better than those received by workers at many other companies across the United States. However, these benefits cost the car companies hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and they are determined to save money.

The UAW’s ranks at the auto companies are vastly smaller than they once were. About 120,000 people work on assembly lines at the three companies, versus nearly 1 million at the peak in 1978. And, the role of the auto industry has diminished as part of the regional economy, according to the Federal Reserve.

As we’ve been reporting all month, big changes are taking place in manufacturing, where companies are taking new approaches and need virtually no workers.

But there are still auto plants in Detroit and Chicago, as well as other parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, where people are watching closely to see what happens with these negotiations.

Are you paying attention to the talks? Predictions on the outcome?


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chrysler invests in Toledo. Ohio Gov. John Kasich emerged from meetings with Big Three officials with a promise from Chrysler to invest $72 million in a Toledo-area machine plant that retains 640 jobs. That may just be the beginning. The auto companies see Ohio as fertile ground for future investments. “We’re very encouraged by the changes we see happening in Ohio,” GM executive director Bryan Roosa tells the Columbus Dispatch. “The attitude toward manufacturers is very supportive.”

2. Toyota unveils 2012 Camry. After two years of setbacks associated with a widespread recall and Japanese catastrophe, Toyota is banking on its 2012 Camry to reestablish itself as an industry leader. Unveiled Tuesday, the ’12 is its first redesign in five years and attempts to match competitors in styling. “It’s critical they get this right,” Michael Robinet, VP of global vehicle forecasts at HIS Automotive tells AOL Autos. “They are facing a deluge of competitors that are really getting it right.”

3. Indiana snags Illinois company. Modern Drop Forge, a manufacturer of vehicle parts, said Tuesday it will move operations from Illinois to Merrillville, Ind. The company, which employs 700 in four states, received incentives worth as much as $2.2 million from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Business owner Greg Heim told partner station WBEZ the cost of doing business in Illinois had crept too high, with the state raising its corporate income tax from 4.7 to 7 percent until 2015.