Leading Chrysler contract opponent Bill Parker says the UAW should return to the bargaining table and fight for future product guarantees if rank-and-file workers reject the current tentative agreement with Chrysler LLC.
On Tuesday, 6,000 workers at Chrysler's Kokomo, Ind., transmission operations dealt another blow to chances that the UAW would ratify the tentative new master contract with Chrysler.
About 70 percent of the workers casting votes at Kokomo rejected the deal as part of a heavy turnout, the Kokomo Tribune reported. UAW Local 685 rejected the agreement by a 2,269-881 vote. UAW Local 1166 turned it down 586-165.
Parker, who represents about 2,700 hourly workers at Chryslers Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, said Chrysler workers should have received new product commitments similar to those that the UAW won from General Motors last month.
Chryslers tentative agreement is in danger of not passing because of the failure to get those promises and other provisions that fall short of the GM contract, said Parker, president of UAW Local 1700 in Sterling Heights.
That includes Chryslers decision not to make temporary workers permanent; GM promised to permanently hire 3,000.
If the agreement is defeated, the union should return to bargaining and address the issues that have led to member dissatisfaction, Parker said in an interview today.
UAW-represented workers have overwhelmingly rejected the tentative agreement at four of the eight Chrysler assembly plants that have completed voting on the contract.
But the voting is too close to call because of victories at several engine and parts plants.
The voting concludes Friday.
Parker said Chrysler workers are making sacrifices this contract with a new-hire wage, restructuring of retiree health care and factory work-rule changes. They should expect at least what GM workers received in return for similar provisions. That is, specific pledges for new products.
The UAW went on strike against GM for two days in September until it received specific investment plans to build future models beginning as far out as 2013. GM rank-and-file overwhelmingly approved the concessionary contract in October after product plans were made public.
Chrysler, on the other hand, only promised to extend vehicles through their current model plans, for the most part, not beyond 2011.
Parker is one of the few local leaders vocal in his opposition to the accord. He was the lone person on the nine-member Chrysler UAW National Negotiating Committee to vote against the plan.
Rank-and-file opposition is widespread, unorganized and largely plant-by-plant, Parker said. The workers simply are voting their interests and consciences, he said.
That contrasts with an orchestrated push by UAW leadership to get the agreement approved. Workers at Jefferson North Assembly Plant Friday rejected the contract by a wide margin despite personal lobbying by UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and UAW Chrysler Department Vice President General Holiefield.
Reuters, quoting anonymous sources, reported on Monday that Chrysler guaranteed it would keep some U.S. factories running well beyond the 2011 expiration of a proposed contract.
Holiefield told union Local 1700 leaders that the Sterling Heights assembly plant would be guaranteed production until 2016 under a previously undisclosed understanding between the union and the privately held automaker, according to a person familiar with that briefing.
Parker was not present for that meeting with Holiefield, Reuters reported.
Reuters contributed to this report