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Workers at key Ford plant in Michigan vote to ratify UAW pact

Early support for deal mixed at other locals

Ford's Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Mich., which has about 2,700 workers, is the first big factory to vote on the deal, which includes an $8,500 signing bonus and the first raises in about a decade for veteran workers and a higher wage scale for most workers hired since 2007. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

DETROIT -- Workers at a Ford Motor Co. plant that lost 700 jobs this year but is now in line to build a new pickup and SUV voted overwhelmingly in favor of the UAW’s tentative contract with the automaker.

Early voting at several other UAW locals has been mixed, though, as union leaders try to rally support for the deal and avoid a repeat of the difficulties they have had ratifying contracts with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Mich., which has about 2,700 workers, is the first big factory to vote on the deal, which includes an $8,500 signing bonus and the first raises in about a decade for veteran workers and a higher wage scale for most workers hired since 2007.

Eighty-one percent of the plant’s production workers who cast ballots voted in favor of it, as did 83 percent of skilled-trades employees, said Bill Johnson, the chairman with UAW Local 900.

Johnson said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, the lead negotiator on the Ford contract, “hit a home run with this thing.” The deal says Ford plans to invest $700 million in the plant, which will get a new product in 2018 and a second product no later than 2020. Sources have identified the products as a midsize pickup called the Ranger and an SUV called the Bronco.

Earlier this year, Ford eliminated the third shift at Michigan Assembly, blaming slow sales of small cars, then later announced that it would stop building the Ford Focus and C-Max there in 2018. Production of the cars is expected to move to Mexico, where labor costs are lower.

In 2011, workers at Michigan Assembly narrowly rejected a proposed national contract, which ultimately gained enough votes at other plants to be ratified. Johnson said the promise of new products clearly contributed to workers’ support of the deal this time around but that there are many other positives as well.

“There’s something in it for everybody,” Johnson said. “I’m absolutely elated with this contract.”

Voting at other plants is unlikely to be as strong, because workers elsewhere felt less uncertain about their job security than those at Michigan Assembly.

At Ford’s Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., 58 percent of production workers voted against the contract, while 54 percent of skilled-trades workers supported it, The Detroit News reported. At Ford’s product-development center in Allen Park, Mich., the News said 81 percent of production workers and 54 percent of skilled-trades workers voted “yes.”

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com -- Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickbunkley

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