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Factory Workers Reject Contract With Fiat-Chrysler


For the first time in more than 30 years, factory workers at one of Detroit's Big Three automakers have rejected a national contract. The tentative deal was between the United Auto Workers and Fiat-Chrysler. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has this report.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: The contract had something in it for everyone - a big pay raise for the lowest-paid workers period - they're known as tier two - and the first pay raise in 10 years for veteran workers - they're known as tier one. Plus a return of some of the benefits that workers gave up during the recession, like a paid holiday the Monday after Easter. So what went wrong? Apparently, many tier-two workers thought they'd get to move up into tier one. Art Wheaton is with The Worker Institute at Cornell.

ART WHEATON: I don't think it was what the membership was expecting. And that gap in expectation and reality is what caused the ratification failure.

SAMILTON: Wheaton says eliminating tier two was never in the cards because Fiat-Chrysler, as the weakest of the Detroit Three, can't afford it. Then there were those photos of UAW President Dennis Williams and Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne warmly embracing before and after the deal was struck. That made some workers angry, and they posted the photos on social media to symbolize what they perceived as a too-cozy relationship between union and management. Kristen Dziczek is with the Center for Automotive Research.

KRISTEN DZICZEK: The membership is clearly signaling they want a more adversarial stance. They want to take on the company. And they want the union on their side, not on the company's side.

SAMILTON: Fiat-Chrysler isn't the only Detroit auto company facing negotiating woes. The union's threatening a local strike over local issues against Ford Motor Company's Kansas City plant, which makes its highly profitable F150 pickup. For NPR News, I'm Tracy Samilton.

MONTAGNE: And we'd like to thank you for listening to MORNING EDITION on your public radio station. Later today, on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, NPR's Mara Liasson brings us a story about Marco Rubio and the push for generational change in the Republican Party. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.
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