DETROIT -- The Chrysler-UAW pact cleared a major hurdle when four large Detroit area locals voting Wednesday ratified the tentative agreement.
The clean sweep in Wednesday's voting is a boost to the prospects for ratification of the contract. The vote was too close to call coming into the day. But the contract now is poised for passage, with just Chrysler's assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill., left to vote.
All told, about 56 percent of the UAW rank-and-file now have approved the contract, according to a source familiar with the results.
Workers at Warren Truck assembly plant today approved the agreement by 78 percent. UAW Local 140 at Warren Truck represents about 2,600 workers. Also, 88 percent of production workers at Sterling Heights Stamping voted for the accord. Local 1264 represents about 1,800 workers.
Warren Truck was the first of eight Chrysler assembly plants to approve the contract. Four have turned it down.
In voting that went well into the evening, workers at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and the Warren Stamping Plant also approved the contract. Local 1700 at Sterling Heights Assembly approved the contract with 65 percent of the rank-and-file voting in favor.
According to the Associated Press, workers at Local 869, which represents just under 1,500 employees at Chrysler's Warren stamping plant, voted 75 percent in favor.
The voting results coming into Wednesday's critical ratifications were too close to call. Without the overwhelming approval votes on Wednesday, ratification of the pact was in jeopardy.
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.
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 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 Tuesday.
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 has been 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