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Workers at Chicago area Ford assembly plant reject contract, strike looms

Bryan Alaspa's picture

With things as bad as they are economically, it seems like things could get a lot tougher for union workers at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago as they reject the latest contract from management.

The vote came down earlier this week as members of the workers unanimously voted down a tentative four-year contract agreement with Ford. The rejection sets up a possible nationwide strike, according to union officials.

According to information by the Chicago Sun-Times, when the vote happened 77% of the 2,317 workers at the plant voted to reject the contract. The plant currently employs 2,700 United Auto Workers.

This is the latest setback for Ford management. With the vote at the Chicago plant, there are now more no votes than yes votes across the country. Union officials say they have been given orders to prepare workers for a strike.

Earlier in the week a plant in Detroit also voted to reject the offer. At the same time, some union leaders are saying that the offer from Ford is a good one. One official stated that the workers at the Chicago plant evidently had multiple issues with the offer and they hoped to meet with members further to figure out what those were and why the offer was rejected.

According to come reports, workers are upset over the fact Ford earned $9.3 billion during the past two years. Of the automobile manufacturers based in the United States only Ford turned a profit and only Ford did not have to turn to the government for bail-out money. Workers say that the company is not sharing those profits with workers and that the latest contract does not return some benefits and things lost in previous agreements. Those include cost-of-living increases. Workers are also reportedly upset that Ford CEO Alan Mulally earned a $26.5 million pay package last year.

Union workers also told the media that it is likely Ford could lock them out if a strike is called. They also warned that Ford could bring in replacement workers if that happens.

Votes on the deal proposed by Ford management will continue into next week. There will be another local Chicago vote when the Chicago Heights stamping plant votes on it next week. The stamping plant employs about 900 workers.

The agreement rejected by workers would have given U.S. Ford workers $16,700 over the total four years of the deal. That would have been broken down into $6,000 signing bonuses, $7,000 in lump sum and inflation protection and $3,700 in profit-sharing in 2011.

For the Chicago plant, the deal would have required Ford to hire a total of 2,000 workers from the Chicago area. This would include 1,100 employees to be part of a new third shift.

The deal also makes promises to Ford plants nationally to hire a total of 5,750 additional factory jobs. Those starting the new jobs would start at a pay rate of $15.78 per hour. Ford would also invest $4.8 billion into the U.S. factories.

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