Hours after United Auto Workers members reached an unprecedented split decision on whether to ratify a new contract with Chrysler, UAW president Bob King told PBS NewsHour there was no conflict within his ranks.
Asked about frustration following the split vote, he told host Jeffrey Brown, “You want to make – I’m sorry, but you seem like you want to make a rift where I don’t think there’s a rift.”
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Earlier Wednesday, the UAW reported that 54.8 percent of hourly workers had voted in favor of ratifying a new contract with Chrysler, but that 55.6 percent of skilled-trade workers had voted against it, resulting in a split decision for the first time ever.
Nonetheless, UAW leaders met following the final tabulations and declared the contract had been ratified.
If skilled-trade workers had voted against the contract because of changes that specifically affected only their work, the UAW would have tried to renegotiate that portion, King told the Detroit Free Press. But “it was overwhelmingly clear that the issues were economic issues and not skilled-trade issues,” he said.
That final decision ostensibly concluded perhaps the most bizarre labor negotiations in memory, which started with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne publicly rebuking King in a written letter at the outset of negotiations.
And they included an unusual priority. In the past, the UAW has placed a priority in negotiating for higher pay and better benefits. But this year, the UAW’s priority was gaining jobs. Toward that end, King secured contractual commitments from the Big Three that will add 20,400 jobs by 2015.
“The number one priority in this was to create jobs in America,” King told NewsHour. “So there will be a lot of people in a lot of communities around America that are hired into middle-class jobs because of what we did in this contract.”