UAW dissident says some Ford workers ready to strike

Some hourly workers at Ford Motor Co. are already indicating a willingness to strike next year if the automaker doesn't restore concessions made during the auto recession, said UAW dissident Gary Walkowicz, who is opposing Bob King this week for the UAW presidency.

Interviewed at a protest before tomorrow's start of the UAW National Constitutional Convention in Detroit, Walkowicz said UAW rank-and-file are tired of concessions and he's been designated to carry that message to convention delegates.

"Ford employees still have the right to strike and I have a lot of people telling me that they're ready to," said Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman at Ford's Dearborn Truck plant.

Walkowicz last autumn spearheaded the successful opposition to Ford concessions negotiated by the international that included a clause that would have prohibited a strike during next year's master contract negotiations with the Detroit 3. General Motors and Chrysler workers gave up their right to strike as part of concessions made before the carmakers entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Walkowicz said a profitable Ford needs to restore pay raises, bonuses and a 10-minute break period in plants that cut non-lunch breaks from 60 minutes per 10-hour work day to 50 minutes.

He said the strenuous work in auto plants makes the break reduction a big worker concern.

Concessions have not stopped the outflow of carmaker jobs outside of the United States, he said. Membership has fallen to about 355,000 from nearly 1.5 million 30 years ago.

The convention kicks off Monday, with officer elections on Wednesday. King is a shoo-in to succeed Ron Gettelfinger as president. Gettelfinger, 65, is retiring.