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Chrysler labor pact likely to win OK

From the Associated Press

The United Auto Workers union is so close to approving a four-year contract with Chrysler that some opponents said Thursday that there was only a remote chance it could still be voted down.

About 45,000 UAW workers at Chrysler are covered by the contract, which has been called historic by industry analysts who believe it will make the company more competitive with Japanese automakers.

The tentative agreement must be ratified by a majority of voting members to go into effect.

The only local yet to vote on the pact represents about 3,300 members at small-car assembly and stamping plants in Belvidere, Ill. Local 1268 will vote today and Saturday, but only a huge turnout and an overwhelming “no” vote would be enough to sink the contract, according to dissidents.

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Shawn Fain, a local bargaining committee member at a Kokomo, Ind., casting plant who has opposed the deal, said an overwhelming “yes” vote in suburban Detroit on Wednesday probably was enough to ratify the deal.

“After what happened yesterday, I think that pretty much put it to a finish,” Fain said Thursday.

As recently as Tuesday, the pact was losing after large locals in Kokomo voted it down, but workers at assembly and stamping plants in Sterling Heights, Mich., and Warren, Mich., had a strong turnout and voted largely in favor. The Sterling Heights and Warren votes pushed the favorable vote ahead, according to a person who was briefed on a running ballot count.

The person, who asked not to be identified because the voting has not ended, said more than 55% of the 25,000 UAW members who voted were in favor of the pact after Wednesday night.

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Harley Shaiken, a professor at UC Berkeley who specializes in labor issues, said many of the early “no” votes appeared to be sending a message of dissatisfaction with the state of the domestic auto industry.

The later votes showed that the UAW’s argument that the contract was the best it could get under difficult circumstances was taking hold and that workers were considering what the other options might be, Shaiken said.

“The later votes had the character of workers looking over the cliff and pulling back,” he said.

UAW workers haven’t rejected a national contract since 1982, in a vote by Chrysler employees.

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Talks have been proceeding slowly at Ford Motor Co., the last automaker to negotiate with the UAW in this year’s round of contract negotiations. General Motors Corp. workers have ratified their contract.


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