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UAW Ford workers ratify modifications to contract

For Garry Sommerville representing UAW Local 3000 members on the union’s Ford National Negotiating Committee was bittersweet.

Joining the committee in December, Sommerville was soon part of a difficult set of mid-contract negotiations, requiring painful changes to help Ford Motor Co. remain competitive after the company suffered $14.8 billion in losses in 2008.

Asking members to give up hard-won gains wasn’t easy, said Sommerville, the local’s plant chair at Ford’s Auto Alliance Inter-national facility in Flat Rock, Mich.

But contract changes were part of an effort to “help keep the company in business and keep them from having to ask for a loan from the federal government,” he said.

UAW Ford members ratified modifications to the 2007 labor agreement, as well as funding changes to the independent Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust for retiree health care, in March.

Fifty-nine percent of production workers and 58 percent of skilled-trades workers ratified the agreement in balloting at UAW Ford locals across the United States.

“UAW members have stepped up to make the difficult decisions necessary to deal with the reality of the current economy, the deteriorating auto industry as a whole and specifically the negative impact the economic climate is having on Ford Motor Co.,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

“We are facing an unprecedented loss of sales and revenue at Ford,” said UAW Vice President Bob King, who directs the union's National Ford Department.

“Our bargaining committee made an extraordinary effort to negotiate changes in a responsible way that will help Ford be competitive, while still protecting our active and retired members. In these very tough times we were still able to win additional commitments to keep manufacturing and assembly jobs here in the United States.”