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Split Decision Creates Confusion in Chrysler Contract Vote

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jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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AUBURN HILLS (WWJ)UPDATE (4:20PM) : UAW Ratifies Chrysler Contract

Skilled trades workers at Chrysler have voted against the UAW’s new tentative contract with the company, while production workers have said yes. This puts the ratification of the deal on hold indefinitely.

The union has not given any vote totals, but WWJ AutoBeat reporter Jeff Gilbert has confirmed the rare split decision.

UAW leaders are discussing how to handle the situation. There are languages in the contract specific to skilled trades workers, and those workers have to give their approval before the contract is ratified.

Generally speaking, skilled trades workers are more likely than production workers to vote against a deal.

“We suspect that it was a very close vote, even on the production workers’ side,” said Kristin Dziczek, who follows labor issues for the Center for Auto Research. “So, then take a margin below that for skilled trades, historically, and you can end up in this situation.”

Dziczek says it’s likely the union is deciding between a new vote, renegotiating the parts of the contract related to skilled trades workers, or putting the issue in the hands of an arbitrator. Because of the federal aid to Chrysler, workers can’t strike, and major issues have to be taken to arbitration.

Arbitration could be a difficult choice for the union to make.

“They have to negotiate the rules of the game, before they invoke the play,” Dziczek said. “It could be a long, drawn out process before they even get to the point where they agree how the process would work.”

Chrysler is not commenting. The UAW hasn’t returned WWJ phone calls.

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