By Jeff Gilbert
For a dozen years now, election day has been an official holiday at Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. It came about as an odd combination of circumstances.
While few other industries have followed the auto industry’s lead, the day off has survived the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, and is given to salaried workers as well as UAW members.
The official union position is that they believe everybody should have election day off.
But Steve Yokich, the union president who negotiateed the holiday back in 1999, admitted shortly after he left office, that he didn’t go into those talks looking for an extra holiday.
DaimlerChrysler had taken the lead in the negotiations that year, and Yokich recalled that as the negotiations were coming to a conclusion, the companies negotiators were looking to get an extra concession from the union. Yokich wanted something in return, and came up with the idea of two extra holidays during the four year life of the contract.
He admitted that he was going out on a limb a bit when he suggested that they be the 2000 and 2002 election days. And Yokich said he was later surprised when the negotiators for DaimlerChrysler agreed to that.
I recall him saying that, possibly, the German leadership of DaimlerChrylser may have had a different attitude about an election day holiday than traditional American executives would have had.
Yokich also felt that the first election day holiday, back in 2000, may have helped Debbie Stabenow win her Senate seat, in a very narrow election.
The DaimlerChrysler contract was patterned at Ford and GM, and has been in domestic three contracts ever since. The companies traditionally set their salaried workers holiday schedule to be the same as the union schedule.
The auto industry has had a unique history when it comes to setting holiday schedules. Maybe I’ll do a blog in the future about the reasons why auto plants close on the first day of hunting season, as an honor to America’s war veterans.