Chrysler voting tilts to ‘no’

October 21, 2011

Chrysler voting tilts to ‘no’

Some accuse union of censorship for trying to hide results

/ The Detroit News

The rank and file appears to be turning against a tentative agreement between Chrysler Group LLC and the United Auto Workers, with two more Michigan locals voting “no” Thursday on the new national contract.

UAW Local 372, which represents workers at Chrysler’s Trenton Engine Complex, voted against ratification, with 55 percent of voting members checking the “no” box on their ballots, according to official results. There were also unconfirmed reports by members Thursday that workers at UAW Local 869, which represents employees at Chrysler’s Warren Stamping Plant, also rejected the contract Wednesday, with nearly 54 percent voting “no.”

The UAW is trying to prevent the release of voting results, saying early tallies could skew the outcome of the plebiscite.

Union members at factories in Illinois and Ohio voted against ratification of the new national contract Wednesday, while two other locals representing workers in Indiana and Michigan voted in favor of it.

On Monday and Tuesday, two other locals representing workers at Chrysler’s manufacturing complex in Kokomo, Ind., also voted in favor of ratification.

Local 51, which represents workers at Chrysler’s Mack Avenue Engine Complex in Detroit, also voted Thursday, but results were not available at press time.

“Our intention with UAW Chrysler is to announce voting results once all members have had the opportunity to vote on the contract,” UAW Vice President General Holiefield, head of the union’s Chrysler division, told The Detroit News. “Posting daily totals may discourage smaller local unions, voting later in the process, from voting if they feel the election has already been decided.”

But some workers accused the union of censorship. Others, like Cathy Smith of Local 372 in Trenton, questioned why the union is changing its reporting policy, noting that Ford Motor Co. results were being posted daily by the UAW’s national Ford Department.

“If we post any thing on the Facebook page, they remove it,” she said. “Why are we being treated different? It gives the perception that they are trying to hide something. I’m not saying they are, but that’s what people are saying.”

Labor expert Kristen Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research said the UAW’s openness about the Ford results was unprecedented.

“Having that update helped them get that agreement ratified. At Chrysler, the strategy seems to be different,” she said, noting that each of the union’s national departments are making their own decisions about how much information to release to members. “The Chrysler Department, for whatever reason, has decided to not be as open as the UAW Ford Department was.”

In addition to trying to prevent the release of vote totals, the Chrysler Department is urging the rank and file to think twice before complaining about the terms of the new contract on its Facebook page, apparently in reaction to numerous comments from members upset that the terms of the new contract are not more generous.

“Please keep in mind public opinion still matters in these difficult times when many are without jobs, paying into their medical insurance, without pensions,” it said in a message to members Thursday.

Aaron Smith, senior research specialist with the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, said individuals and organizations alike are still trying to figure out how to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter effectively without compromising confidential information.

“There is a certain tension between maintaining control of the discussion on one hand and allowing people to talk freely — particularly when you are dealing with organizations setting up officially sanctioned channels,” he said.

Holiefield said the union understands the challenges of social media.

“Even with its limitations, the use of social media has given us a new opportunity for two-way communication with our members,” he said. “At the point we reached tentative agreements, social media provided an avenue for members to post questions and get answers about the contracts, to interact with one another in honest and open debate, and to send feedback to the union, both positive and negative. We hope to continue and encourage this debate and participation.”

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Additional Facts
Results of UAW-Chrysler voting
Local 1302 (Kokomo, Ind.): Yes
Local 685 (Kokomo, Ind.): Yes
Local 1166 (Kokomo, Ind.): Yes
Local 1268 (Belvidere, Ill.): No
Local 1435 (Toledo, Oh.): No
Local 412 (Southeast Mich.): Yes
Local 869 (Warren, Mich.): No
Local 372 (Trenton, Mich.): No

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