Oct 26, 2015
The UAW and FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles) announced that Chrysler workers have ratified a new agreement. In a carefully orchestrated public media campaign, the UAW International repackaged the first rejected contract into a second agreement that was no “richer” than the first. To quote one analyst, “they packaged it in a way that was much more appealing even though it likely doesn’t cost Chrysler more money than the first agreement.”
Clearly, both the UAW International and FCA designed the first and second agreements to address the anger and frustration of Chrysler workers about unequal pay and benefits, generally known as Two Tier – without actually doing anything about it.
Having broken a promise to promote a section of Tier Two workers to Tier One pay at the end of the 2015 contract, bargainers had THAT issue to “repackage.”
In the first, rejected, contract, the UAW International and FCA argued for keeping Two Tier with some improvements. In the second contract, they APPEARED to eliminate Tier Two. They “promised” to bring workers just short of top wages – in eight years. But everything must be renegotiated in four years, when this contract ends!
It appears that this “promise,” which also moves about 20 percent of Tier Two workers to current Tier One wages within two years, was enough to get the contract passed.
This, combined with concerns about how workers would ever be able to get anything better, put a damper on the fight. The International UAW hammered the workers down, spouting sermons about all of the bad things that a strike would bring. This made even the most militant workers reluctant to risk a strike.
Chrysler is giving a little with one hand, while taking away more with the other. Increases in pay for current workers in the second contract will be paid for by lowered wages and benefits for future workers, and by plans to transfer more health care costs to current workers. The rules for employment of temporary workers were radically changed – clearly as a way for Chrysler to establish a new, even lower tier by hiring many more temporary workers at lower wages.
Instead of eliminating Two Tier, the contracts expand and increase the number of tiers – a divisive boomerang that will come back to hit current workers. Why keep Tier 2 workers when the company can hire long-term temps instead?
While promising a “pathway to full pay,” the contract leaves future employment for Chrysler workers up in the air. Chrysler bosses made very real plans to move products between facilities and locations, with future layoffs and relocations for those currently employed.
How will the Chrysler workers weather these storms over the next two years, four years? How will they face continuing inhuman alternative shifts and work rules that are inhuman – all of which remained in the current contract?
Perhaps the determination of a section of the Chrysler workers to reject the contract will begin to prepare them for the fights to come ... once the smoke and mirrors of the current contract disappear into thin air.