DETROIT -- The Chrysler-UAW contract faces a stiff test at the Belvidere (Ill.) assembly and stamping plants Friday, but it may be too late to derail the accord.
Victories at four key Detroit-area plants Wednesday have the agreement on the verge of passage. Sources say the agreement has won 56 percent of the rank-and-file votes nationally, with just the Belvidere plants to go.
It has been a struggle. First, Bill Parker, chairman of the UAWs Chryslers National Negotiating Committee and president of UAW Local 1700 in suburban Detroit, broke ranks with his eight colleagues and opposed the deal this month.
Then, Chryslers two big assembly plants in St. Louis, North and South, voted down the agreement by wide margins in the first stages of ratification voting.
The voting has been nip-and-tuck since. In the past week, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, his Chrysler UAW lieutenant General Holiefield and international union reps have fanned out into Chrysler plants to promote the agreement.
They have had to counteract criticisms by Parker and other opponents that the contract lacked specific future product commitments and that a new-hire wage would be divisive in the factory.
That lobbying proved decisive yesterday in Michigan. Parkers local at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant approved the agreement, as did Warren Truck, Warren Stamping and Sterling Heights Stamping.
The contract affects about 48,000 workers and a similar number of retirees. Ratification is determined by a simple majority of those voting.
Next up is Belvidere, which produces the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Patriot. The plants have about 3,800 UAW-represented workers. The president of UAW Local 1268 there, Tom Littlejohn, also opposes the agreement. Earlier this month, he said he opposed the contract because it didn't protect temporary workers.
The UAW was able to get GM to commit to hiring 3,000 temporaries permanently in that contract. Chrysler made no such commitment.
Thats a particularly big issue at Belvidere, Littlejohn said. About a quarter, or 750, of the workforce at Chryslers Belvidere assembly plant is temporary, Littlejohn said.
He did not return phone calls today.