UAW/Chrysler deal slowly not failing…

Chrysler workers at three of four key United Auto Workers union locals voting Wednesday approved a new contract with the company, the presidents of the locals said.

Votes were still being tallied Wednesday night at Local 1700 in Sterling Heights. That local represents 2,500 workers who make the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger midsize cars.

The votes were good news for UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who has faced serious challenges from some members opposed to the deal. The tentative agreement must be ratified by a majority of members to go into effect.

The four union locals voting Wednesday represent more than 8,600 workers – or roughly 19 percent of the 45,000 workers who would be covered by the historic four-year agreement.

It is interesting to see that which, usually, has indicated success, across the board. This time, however, mere percentages aren’t helping. Somebody get Dan Rather.

Eight local unions representing more than 16,000 workers have now turned down the landmark pact, while nine locals representing about 15,200 workers have approved it. It’s nearly impossible to keep a running total because most local union officials give out only percentages and not the number of people who voted. Also, officials of some smaller locals could not be reached or would not give out results.

Gary Chaison, a labor specialist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said the discontent with the contract is a sign of a union in disarray.

“Each local is looking out for themselves now,” Chaison said. “The larger locals, the big assembly locals, see the most to lose in terms of job cuts. They feel they can oppose the national officers.”

Interestingly, little to no importance (either in reporting or negotiation) has been given to the (new) Cerberus ownership of Chrysler. I’m not suggesting this is related – it could have just been that such ownership made up the impetus needed to really push back against the UAW and extract some real concessions (and I’m not even convinced that manufacturing cars people only want thanks to tax cuts is in America’s real interests, anyway).

One has to hand it to them, though: a fractured union, two-tiered workforce, self-interested locals displaying little cohesion or solidarity. If Cerberus’d made a list of cool things to do when they bought Chrysler, these would have rated well above whiskers on kittens.

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