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Ford’s workers in Chicago oppose four-year UAW deal

But the other U.S. factories, including Chicago Heights, are backing the proposed contract.

An assembly line worker uses suction cups to lift Explorer SUV doors into place at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant on June 24, 2019.
An assembly line worker uses suction cups to lift Explorer SUV doors into place at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant on June 24, 2019.
Sun-Times file photo

The proposed four-year contract between Ford and the United Auto Workers has drawn support from most workers nationwide voting on the ratification, but the Torrence Avenue plant in Chicago has gone on record against it.

Workers at UAW Local 551 voted against the contract proposal 1,599 to 1,030, according to results the union posted on social media. Ford’s UAW units across the country are voting on the deal through Friday.

Workers at Ford’s Chicago Heights stamping plant, represented by Local 588, supported the contract 605-218, according to a Google document the union is using to provide updated vote totals. The Chicago plant is the only manufacturing site to reject the contract so far.

As of late Monday, the document showed all UAW workers were backing the deal with a 62.5% yes vote. The totals were 10,937 votes for the contract and 6,556 against. But some analysts said it’s possible the contract will be rejected.

One of Ford’s largest plants is in Louisville. The voting results from its 8,600 eligible workers is scheduled to be announced Friday.

Leaders of Local 551 did not return calls Monday. The contract provides 3% raises in the second and fourth years, plus lump sum payments equal to a 4% raise in the other years for permanent seniority workers, the UAW said. Workers also get a ratification bonus of $9,000 for permanent employees and $3,500 for temporary employees, who get the chance to achieve permanent status during the life of the contract.

Terms for health care and profit sharing were maintained, the union said. A Ford spokeswoman could not be reached Monday.

But in an unusual move, the company and the UAW rewrote part of the contract last week even as workers were voting on it. They said the revision fixed language that denied pay increases for some workers with less seniority.

The Ford plant at 12600 S. Torrence Ave. is the oldest in the company’s system and this year received a $1 billion investment and about 1,000 added jobs to accommodate its move to large SUVs, both gasoline and hybrid models, and away from the discontinued Ford Taurus sedan. But Ford CEO Jim Hackett said last month the company rushed the work, leading to production problems that hurt Ford Explorer sales.

Ford reached the tentative pact with UAW on Oct. 30 in negotiations that began once the union settled its six-week strike against General Motors. If the Ford deal becomes final, the UAW then would open talks with FCA Group, owner of Fiat Chrysler.