Concession Watch: Ford Vote "Tight," CAW Reaches Deal With GM

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

The Detroit News reports that the UAW vote on Ford’s proposed modifications ( full summary in PDF) to the union contract is “tight,” as locals wrap up balloting by Monday. Eight union locals have approved the modifications while four have rejected them, but margins of victory were in the “low 60-percent level to the mid-50-percent range.” Modifications must be approved by a simple majority of Ford’s UAW workers, meaning “no” votes in locals that passed the measure still count and vice versa. And though the Freep has uncovered a letter from Ford to the UAW detailing the carnage that has already been wrought upon Ford’s hapless contract employees (possibly the great unsung victims in this mess), and suggesting that perhaps contract modifications aren’t the end of the world, the video above proves that the old UAW zero-sum perspective is alive and well.

What the NYT describes as a “humbled” UAW is rallying supporters from the teachers unions and the AFL-CIO to join in the Waterloo-of-class warfare. “The way the U.A.W. has been treated is a disgrace,” says AFL-CIO pesident John Sweeney, who’s “Working America” affiliate sent 1,500 “often hostile” handwritten letters of anger to bailout opposer, Senator Bob Corker. “They’re very skilled workers, and too many people forget the role that union played in building the middle class in America.” “Everybody has to find a bogeyman when they have problems,” responds Senator Corker. “When people know you’re telling the truth, it hurts sometimes. New hires into UAW jobs get paid exactly half of what people who’ve been there a while make. That, by the contract they negotiated, is an admission that their wages were too high.”

And while emotions run high at the UAW, its union outliers seem to be taking a far more pragmatic approach. Automotive News [sub] reports that a tentative deal has been reached between GM and its Canadian Auto Worker union employees. The modifications will extend the existing contract for one year freezing pay rates and cost of living adjustments, cutting paid time off by 40 hours per year and boosting insurance co-pays and even requiring them of retirees. The deal must be approved by the union membership, but because a Canadian bailout hangs in the balance, it seems likely to pass. “There is no joy on our side of the bargaining table,” CAW President Ken Lewenza tells Dow Jones. “This is the furthest thing we wanted to do, but the alternatives are worse.”

Similar pragmatism is evident at the joint GM-Toyota NUMMI plant, where Reuters reports that UAW employees are 86 percent in favor of cutting Friday from their paid working week.

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  • MattVA MattVA on Mar 09, 2009

    roamer, in you plan, has Ford management been in secret negotiations with the Federal government to get debtor-in-possession? Would that even be legal? If not, where are they going to get that debtor-in-possession financing to restructure?

  • Mcs Mcs on Mar 09, 2009

    @Jeff Puthuff : mcs: Fisher continued to exist as a GM division until the late 80s or very early 90s. My grandfather’s 80s-Cavalier wagon’s door sill read “Body by Fisher”—surely a proud achievement for them. The person in the video implied that they were a separate company that went bankrupt. Not true. He also said that he arrived at work and found the building padlocked and that they had to take concessions. That did not happen. Officially Fisher was disbanded as a division in 1984, but most of it had been absorbed by GMAD long before that date. There were some separate facilities like the Fleetwood plant on Fort St. that the subject in the video may have worked, but the employees were transferred to the GMAD Poletown plant when it was built. Another person I know went to Ohio. It was a long transition and it didn't happen overnight. Your Cavalier probably came from Lordstown and it was built by GMAD - General Motors Assembly Division and not Fisher Body. There were no Fisher Body employees at that facility. Just some GMAD person on the line that stuck the label on the car. The whole Fleetwood/Cadillac (and the Toronado) operation had to be one of the most inefficient manufacturing operations ever. They'd build the bodies at one plant (Fleetwood) on Fort St., then load them up on open trucks and drive them a few blocks to another plant on Clark St. for final assembly. They were still doing this midway into the eighties.

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