Bloomberg News

UAW Says 62% of Members Voting in Favor of Ford Agreement

October 16, 2011

(Updates voting results in the second paragraph.)

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The United Auto Workers said 62 percent of its members have voted in favor of a tentative four- year labor agreement with Ford Motor Co. as of 8:30 p.m. New York time.

The union said 14,845 members at Ford had cast ballots in favor of the labor deal while 9,076 voted against. The UAW didn’t specify the percentage of Ford’s 40,600 hourly employees who have had a chance to vote. Balloting will run through Oct. 18.

The updated tally came after the union said UAW Local 600, the biggest Ford local union, had voted 62 percent to 38 percent in favor of the tentative agreement. Local 600 in 2009 voted against concessions, including a strike ban during this year’s labor negotiations. UAW members at a Claycomo, Missouri, plant also voted 88 percent in favor. The union posted the results on its Facebook page.

“This contract is close to a done deal,” said Harley Shaiken, labor professor at University of California at Berkeley. “Local 600 is pivotal because it’s the largest Ford local and is closely watched by other Ford locals. Both the size and visibility of Local 600 give this contract a major boost.”

Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, was the only U.S. automaker that faced the possibility of a strike in this year’s labor negotiations between the union and U.S. automakers. The UAW agreed to strike bans at General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC as part of the U.S.-backed bankruptcies at the companies. Fiat SpA owns a majority of Chrysler.

‘No’ Votes

“We remain optimistic that the tentative agreement will be approved,” Marcey Evans, a Ford spokeswoman, said today. Jimmy Settles, who heads the union’s Ford department, said in an e- mailed statement that he’s “very optimistic” the tentative contract will be ratified.

The proposed Ford agreement was rejected last week by Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, which builds the Taurus sedan and Explorer sport-utility vehicle, and a factory in Wayne, Michigan, that produces the Focus small car. A metal-stamping plant in Chicago and a parts plant in Saline, Michigan, also turned it down.

On Oct. 14, the overall vote total flipped to approval from rejection after workers at Ford’s Mustang factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, voted in favor of the proposed agreement along with an assembly plant in Minnesota and at a transmission factory in Livonia, Michigan. The Flat Rock factory is to get a second shift to produce the Fusion midsize sedan under the new contract.

‘Tough Times’

“These latest votes reflect workers feeling this is a very good contract in very tough times,” Shaiken said. “If you’re one of the early plants that votes, you’ve got the luxury of saying no. If you’re one of the later plants, you’re looking at a strike.”

Ford has not had a national strike since 1976.

UAW President Bob King said Oct. 12 that he expected members to ratify the agreement reached with Ford on Oct. 4. The company pledged 12,000 new jobs, $6.2 billion in factory upgrades, and bonus and profit-sharing payments this year that total as much as $10,000 per worker. It won’t give raises for senior workers or restore cost-of-living pay increases workers gave up to help Ford survive.

‘Voting on Emotion’

“Times are obviously better for the company and the executives are getting raises, but they don’t want to give anything back to the workers,” Gary Walkowicz, a union official with Local 600 who led a “Vote No” campaign, said Oct. 13. “People feel they deserve more. There is a lot of anger out here.”

The UAW’s Settles, in his statement tonight, said Ford hourly employees had concluded the tentative accord was in their interest.

“The Ford workers voting early on in the process were voting on emotion, but workers in plants with voting later in the process had a chance to learn everything about the agreement and understood how much their votes counted,” Settles said in the e-mail.

Ford earned $9.28 billion in the past two calendar years after $30.1 billion in losses from 2006 through 2008. Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally’s 2010 compensation rose 48 percent to $26.5 million. Ford also awarded him more than $56 million in stock in March for leading the company’s turnaround.

“In early votes, you can vote your anger,” Shaiken said. “In later votes, you start asking, ’What are my options?’”

--Editors: Bill Koenig, Jamie Butters

To contact the reporters on this story: Bill Koenig in Southfield, Michigan at wkoenig@bloomberg.net; Keith Naughton in Southfield, Michigan at knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net


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