UAW Locals In Michigan, New York Split On Tentative Chrysler Contract

Sunday, October 21st 2007, 7:55 pm
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ The fate of a tentative labor agreement at Chrysler LLC remained uncertain Sunday after two large United Auto Workers locals representing about 4,500 of the union's 45,000 members at the automaker split over the deal.

National UAW leaders appeared concerned about the fate of the agreement, asking all appointed union officials to sign a statement backing the deal.

The contract had already failed in ratification votes Friday and Saturday at Local 110 in Fenton, Mo.; Local 1183 in Newark, Del.; and Local 122 in Twinsburg, Ohio. It failed again Sunday in a vote by members of UAW Local 7 at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit. About 57 percent of voters opposed the deal, the local said, declining to release the totals.

Jefferson North makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander and has about 2,200 UAW members.

But workers at a parts plant in suburban Syracuse, N.Y., bucked the trend Sunday, voting 88 percent in favor of the deal.

The vote at UAW Local 624 in DeWitt, N.Y., was 1,045-163 in favor. The local represents about 2,300 employees at Chrysler's New Process Gear plant.

``Those gentlemen have gotten us the best deal possible,'' said shop chairman George Welitschinsky. ``And let me tell you something, they are the best negotiators I've ever seen, and they take care of the UAW families; they take care of everybody's family.''

UAW and Chrysler bargainers reached the national agreement Oct. 10 after a six-hour strike. The deal came the same day the union announced that General Motors Corp. workers had approved a similar contract.

If Chrysler workers vote it down, negotiators must go back to the bargaining table.

The four-year contract would establish a union-run, company-funded trust to cover retiree health care. It also would establish lower wages for about 11,000 noncore workers who don't build cars or parts.

It would not raise base pay but would give workers a $3,000 signing bonuses and lump sum payments of 3 or 4 percent in the remaining years.

Last week, UAW Vice President General Holiefield sent a memo to local union leaders asking all appointed union representatives to sign a statement endorsing the agreement.

Holiefield was expected to meet Monday to discuss the contract with officials at Local 1700, which represents about 2,200 hourly workers at a Chrysler plant in suburban Detroit's Sterling Heights, according to a union member who was at the local's meeting Sunday.

The union member said plans for the meeting with Holiefield were announced at the Sunday meeting, but he asked not to be identified because he isn't authorized to speak publicly about such matters.

Members of Local 1700 are expected to vote Wednesday on whether to ratify the tentative agreement.

A message seeking comment was left Sunday with UAW spokesman Roger Kerson.