Local Ford workers vote down proposed contract

October 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn both wanted to take credit for helping arrange the deal that would have brought new jobs to the city.

Union members have cited no cost of living increase and a continuation of a two-tiered pay scale. The contract also offered signing bonuses to senior members rises to higher wages to newer workers.

Workers for General Motors and Chrysler have already ratified new contracts. Now the industry's attention has turned to Ford.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 558 casted their votes on the latest Ford contract Thursday.

"I hope it get settled," said Robert Farmer. "I've been here 43 years, I love this place. I love this place. Haven't missed a day in 25 years. I love coming out here. I love working."

The contract does not have what some had hoped at Ford's stamping plant in Chicago Heights. And they are preparing for the worst -- a possible national strike.

"We're on the ready," said Aaron Szanyi. "We have rosters. Signs are made up. It's a scary thing for either side."

"Eight years without a raise. They take everything and they don't want to give us nothing back. We'll see what happens," said Sal Vazquez.

The union's vote comes on the heels of a "no" vote from the workers at the nearby Chicago plant. Earlier Thursday, Local 551 members voted against the contract. The new contract would have added a new shift -- and new jobs.

"I'm sure they will come together and come out with a good final agreement," said Gov. Quinn.

"I think they will have a contract go through," said James Schrager of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. "I just don't know that it will be exactly this one. I think there are a lot of powerful forces that are behind the scenes working hard to make sure things get done."

Professor Schrager sees new union contracts as a way to keep costs down that will help the nation's automakers. But he says, in order to thrive in a competitive market, it's all about the product.

"We still have to have be able to have American car builders build product that people love to own, that people will stand in line to buy," said Schrager.

Ford Motor Company has issued a statement, saying in part:

"The agreement is fair to our employees and improves Ford's competitiveness in the U.S. We remain optimistic that the tentative agreement will be approved."

Nationwide, the contract adds 12,000 jobs and invests in new vehicle development and production.

The results of the Chicago Heights local vote should be made known Friday morning. Other UAW members across the country will vote through next Tuesday.

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