The UAW's willingness to let the Chrysler group use temporary workers for a third shift at its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant is a win-win opportunity that enables the automaker to add jobs and boost production of the hot-selling Dodge Caliber and the Jeep Compass.
It also proves the union's leadership understands real-world global economics. In an era of withering market share when SUVs and other light trucks pile up on dealership lots, it is crucial to build what consumers crave when they crave it. But adding a third shift with regular full-time employees would be a tough commitment in a fickle market.
UAW leadership at Solidarity House in Detroit let Chrysler add language to the current contract so it could hire about 800 temporary employees working on a two-year contract. That enables Chrysler to minimize the risk of adding a third shift that it might need to eliminate later if demand cools for the models built at Belvidere.
Under the old economics and the old way of reasoning, that kind of arrangement probably wouldn't have been possible. Officials from UAW Local 1268 may not like the arrangement. But it is quid pro quo for Chrysler, which invested $420 million to retool a 40-year-old Rust Belt factory rather than move the work.
Now Belvidere has a flexible process in a flexible factory, which underwrites job security for the workers.
It is another example of flexible thinking by the union and the company, something that bodes well for the Detroit 3 and the UAW as they roll toward next year's crucial collective bargaining.