UAW Group Files Grievance Against Chrysler Contract

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Despite UAW President Bob King’s insistence that the UAW is not riven with divisions, Chrysler’s latest union contract is inflaming intra-union conflict, as the Detroit News reports that the Autoworker’s Caravan splinter group is protesting the union’s decision to approve a contract despite being rejected by Chrysler’s skilled trade workers. According to Autoworkers Caravan’s Alex Wassell,

We voted down the tentative agreement. But they used a procedural loophole to ratify it. We think it’s a very bad agreement and a very bad precedent, and we’re going to do everything we can to overturn it.

King claims that the ignored skilled trade workers’ rejection of the new contract because

It was overwhelmingly clear that the issues were economic issues and not skilled-trades issues,

And the Autoworkers Caravan seems to be wondering why that would matter: after all, the union isn’t allowed to do anything without membership ratification. In any case, the matter will be determined by the UAW’s public review board… which is exactly what Caravan’s Wassell wants. He tells the DetN

We want to go through a discovery phase and find out exactly how Bob King and the other leaders made that decision. We think it will show that it was just a rubber-stamp.

But regardless of how this particular dispute is resolved, labor issues are likely to drag on at Chrysler. With CEO Sergio Marchionne’s revelation that he wanted a single-tier payscale, and with a flat $22/hour rate proposed for all of Chrysler’s UAW workers, the UAW’s Chrysler reps are hunkering down. Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research tells the Detroit News

It’s a very unhappy work force now. They got less, and they basically feel like Chrysler wants to continue to give them less. Chrysler workers are already saying, ‘Save your raises (for a future strike),’ and Mr. Marchionne is already throwing down the gauntlet for 2015.

Even King admits that Chrysler is a troubling bellweather for the health of the union. Though GM and Ford were relatively generous this year, that won’t last as long as Marchionne and Chrysler play hardball with the union. Says King,

They saw their sisters and brothers at GM and Ford getting a lot more money. Is everybody on the floor of the factory happy? Absolutely not. I’m not happy, either.

Nor should he be. On the one hand, he’s got to be responsive to the fact that his Chrysler skilled trade workers are up in arms, and on the other, he’s got to manage a Chrysler leadership team that has the motive and opportunity to break the union’s back entirely. As Chrysler’s VP for communications Gualberto Ranieri puts it

It was not because someone here won the lottery, and it was not generated by the automotive business. The recent history of Chrysler is not comparable to any of the other manufacturers, and you don’t need an MBA to understand this. What the company proposed, what the UAW negotiating team unanimously approved and what the majority of its members voted for is consistent with the situation at Chrysler. It will ensure that Chrysler has the means to grow and not put in danger its future.

In the words of one Chrysler employee, “it’s going to be ugly in ’15.” But the way the tension is building already, the ugliness could well boil over before 2015 negotiations begin. Chrysler is taking the most aggressive line with the union yet seen, and the UAW’s most experienced workers are already digging in their heels. Unless King, who is stuck in the middle, can find a way to keep everyone happy, the union could tear itself apart under the pressure.

Edward Niedermeyer
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  • Acuraandy Acuraandy on Nov 07, 2011

    It should be noted that driving behind these guys coming into the plant during the piece were driving mostly current-generation cars/trucks, and in the same breath bitching about pay. Just sayin'... I personally just took an $600/month pay cut at a job ive managed to hold for 9 years. The last time this happened I didn't have a mortgage and 'lived in my momma's basement'. Couple this with my fiance not being able to find work since we've moved, and yeah, it hurts. WHO ISN'T IN THIS ECONOMY?! The reality is most people in the auto mechanics field in the Twin Cities would KILL for a $15/hr job, and my employer knows it. And mind you, this is significantly MORE skilled than bolting a fender onto a Crysler (purposely misspelled)200. Detroit is in trouble, and the UAW owning 1/3 of Chrysler doesn't help in the eyes of the rank-and-file. Exhibit A: Unions were at a time very necessary in this country, but like typewriters and 33rpm records, are no longer. It is up to the individual to negotiate for themselves, and develop more skills/education themselves instead of paying someone else to do it. If you're dissatisfied with your pay, DO SOMETHING ELSE. Rumor has it there's about 15,000 jobs in the Bakken oil field in ND and MT. If these UAW types want to make more, they might want to check that out. Of course, that would involve, well, working. For 18-20 hrs a DAY. And have to give up their drinking/smoking dope breaks at lunch time. Exhibit B: Be thankful ya'll have jobs AT ALL. I am.

    • See 8 previous
    • Geeber Geeber on Nov 07, 2011

      @damikco Two wrongs don't make a right. And, at any rate, I doubt that anyone would argue with the assertion that the appearance of Alan Mullaly has changed things dramatically at Ford. He hasn't just "shown up" from what I've seen.

  • Habibi Habibi on Nov 07, 2011

    It is interesting that the gentleman interviewed missed the significance of owning 30% of the stock. It is an opportunity for the UAW to share in the success of the company, IF they can find the right balance between their near term compensation and the cost structure/long term health of the company. I wonder if this point is lost on all the rank & file at Chrysler?

    • Acuraandy Acuraandy on Nov 07, 2011

      Apparently it is. And don't get me wrong, I am NOT against unions, just those who game 'the system' and expect more money every contract for doing the same work and not expanding their labor usefulness. If one would've asked Steve Jobs if he would've paid someone to do the same job for more money regardless if they learned new skills or increased productivity to do the same job, he would've laughed in their face. Otherwise, an iPhone would cost about $5,000. Just sayin'...:)

  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.