Chrysler deal faces rocky road to union approval

ByABC News
October 20, 2007, 10:28 AM

DETROIT -- The Chrysler-United Auto Workers deal now facing ratification votes around the country drew strong initial opposition from the union's national bargaining committee, The Detroit Free Press has learned.

The nine-member committee, when first presented with the deal, unanimously rejected it, forcing the top UAW leadership to apply pressure on the committee to bring about approval, according to Shawn Fain, a skilled trades committeeman at Local 1166.

Fain told his members in a letter, which was posted on the Kokomo, Ind., local's website, that the national committee had to take four votes before UAW President Ron Gettelfinger was able to muster enough support for the agreement.

The final tally for the deal, which was reached Oct. 10, was 8-1 in favor. The committee's chair, Bill Parker, president of Local 1700 in Sterling Heights, led the opposition during a meeting of local leaders last Monday, arguing the tentative agreement lacked sufficient future- product guarantees.

So far, the agreement has received a rocky reception among the rank and file, who have begun voting in some locals. Four or five union locals were holding ratification votes Friday, but the results were not available at press time.

The first tests of the deal came back mixed Thursday. Local 136, which represents workers in Chrysler's St. Louis-area pickup plant, rejected the contract late Thursday, with 80% of members opposed. Local 72, which represents workers at Chrysler's smaller Kenosha, Wis., engine plant, gave it 78% approval.

Harley Shaiken, a labor expert from the University of California at Berkeley, said he was surprised by the level of opposition at the Missouri local, but cautioned against reading too much into one defeat. "That's a very strong negative reaction, even understanding the context," he said.

The contract needs majority approval of all members voting to be ratified.

Leadership tries to rally support

The UAW leadership is hustling to line up support. In a letter to local leaders, UAW Vice President General Holiefield called for "all appointed union representatives" to "stand in solidarity in support of this tentative agreement."