Auto union skids toward clashes with Detroit Three over pay

Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:03pm EDT
 
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By Bernie Woodall and Joseph White

KOKOMO, Ind. (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union is skidding toward clashes with at least two of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, as rank and file workers reject compromises on wage increases, benefits and work schedules that their leaders had urged them to accept.

A majority of about 40,000 UAW workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV(FCAU.N: Quote) appear to have voted against a proposed four-year labor agreement hammered out by UAW President Dennis Williams earlier this month, union officials said Wednesday.

A UAW spokesman said the union wouldn't disclose the vote count until after an assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill. completes voting this evening.

Separately, the UAW’s top negotiator at Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) on Tuesday said he has authorized a strike as early as Sunday by 7,500 workers at a factory near Kansas City, Mo. that builds the company’s best-selling F-150 pickup truck, a linchpin of Ford’s global profits.

Analysts said the move by UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles is in part a signal to rank and file members about his readiness to hit the company hard if management does not agree to UAW demands.

The UAW’s expected defeat at Fiat Chrysler and the threat of conflict at Ford, a company that has cultivated peaceful labor relations over the past 30 years, reflect growing discontent among American workers over stagnant pay.

“Everything costs more and it’s going up, but not my pay,” said Gary Spangler, a 22-year veteran at Fiat Chrysler’s transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana. He said he voted against the proposed contract.

Veteran UAW autoworkers have not had a base wage increase in a decade. Williams and other UAW leaders, wary of losing more auto jobs to Mexico and non-union factories in the southern United States, portrayed the Fiat Chrysler deal as a fair balance of more equitable pay and investments in U.S. plants.   Continued...

 
A new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sign is pictured after being unveiled at Chrysler Group World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook