DETROIT Workers at three more United Auto Workers locals have rejected a tentative contract agreement between the union and Chrysler LLC, casting doubt on whether the deal will be ratified.
Members at locals in Missouri, Ohio and Delaware voted against the deal Friday and Saturday even as union leaders from Detroit spent the later part of the week lobbying for yes votes.
The contract failed Saturday at Local 110 in Fenton, Mo., one of Chrysler's largest, with 2,781 hourly workers at the South Assembly Plant. The vote was surprising because the plant makes Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan minivans, which are brand new for 2008 and expected to be top sellers, providing job security for several years.
A recording at the Local 110 union hall said Saturday that 66 percent of skilled trades workers voted against the contract, while 79 percent of non-skilled workers opposed it. It didn't give the number of workers that voted.
Although final totals from the 45,000 workers voting on the pact won't be made known until next week, the size and locations of the locals voting no are not good signs for leaders in Detroit, said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in labor issues.
"The early results are abysmal," Shaiken said. "Members have sent a message of considerable unrest."
Dissident union members have used the Internet to voice opposition to the pact, and the UAW's national Chrysler negotiating chairman, Bill Parker, president of a local in suburban Detroit's Sterling Heights, has come out against it.
If the contract is rejected by UAW members, it would be the first time in at least two decades that has happened, Shaiken said.
The agreement was reached Oct. 10 after a six-hour strike, the same day the union announced that General Motors Corp. workers had approved a similar contract. If Chrysler workers vote it down, negotiators must go back to the bargaining table.
The UAW said negotiators were able to fend off the company's demand for wage cuts of $1.01 per hour and cost-of-living adjustment delays, according to a booklet summarizing the deal. They also saved about 1,500 jobs at the Toledo, Ohio, machining plant, which was slated to close.
But 14 of 21 factories listed in the booklet have no future products to make after the current product life cycle or the life of the new contract. Seven were to get future products.
The deal also includes a lower-tier wage scale for newly hired "noncore" employees who do not build vehicles or manufacture parts. The lower tier starts around $14 per hour but does not affect the pay of current workers doing noncore jobs. It also gives workers a $3,000 signing bonuses and lump sum payments of 3 or 4 percent in the remaining years.
Like the GM deal, the union won a moratorium on plant closing and outsourcing. The outsourcing ban on noncore work will keep 8,000 jobs, the booklet said.
Richard McDonaugh Jr., president of Local 1183 at Chrysler's Newark, Del., assembly plant, said Saturday that the contract failed at his local by a vote a 54 percent to 46 percent. The local represents 1,100 hourly UAW members.
McDonaugh, who favors the contract, said the vote was better than expected because the Newark plant is slated to be closed by the company. He was appalled at locals voting down the agreement at plants with future product guarantees and accused dissidents of spreading misinformation.
Many "noncore" workers at his plant thought their pay would be cut in half to around $14 per hour under the new contract, but McDonaugh said that isn't true.
"The language states, no current seniority worker will be assigned entry-level wages even if they are classified in non-core jobs," McDonaugh said. "They will be on the fork trucks, handling the material and working in the tool stores until they retire, quit or die," he said.
Parker wrote an undated "minority report" letter that urged the union's Chrysler Council to reject the agreement and return to the bargaining table.
The council, made up of presidents and other local officials from across the country, approved the deal on a voice vote Monday at a meeting in Detroit.
Parker's letter says the deal's lower tier wage scale for some entry-level employees would create divisions within the union. It also says the Chrysler deal fell short of one that General Motors Corp. workers agreed to this month, including a failure to guarantee vehicle commitments to many plants beyond current products.
Messages were left with UAW spokesman Roger Kerson in Detroit.
Another local, 122, which represents 1,515 workers at the Twinsburg, Ohio, stamping plant, voted against the contract, local president Charles Spencer told the Detroit Free Press. He said 53 percent of the votes were against the deal.
On Friday, Local 961 in Detroit rejected the contract 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent, said Ed May, local president. The local, which did not make vote totals available, represents 1,380 hourly UAW members.
Other locals were still voting Saturday, and results were not available.
The Chrysler contract suffered its first major defeat Thursday, when a local representing 2,100 workers in suburban St. Louis rejected the pact. Union officials said workers at that truck plant in Fenton also were bothered by the contract's creation of core and noncore workers.
But not everyone opposes the deal. Workers at a Chrysler engine plant in Kenosha, Wis., voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the agreement. The UAW local in Kenosha represents about 800 workers.
The Detroit Free Press reported Saturday that workers at the Trenton engine plant also approved the deal, as did Local 1435, which represents workers at the Toledo, Ohio, machining plant.