After GM workers settle, workers at Ford debate, vote on new contract

By Seth Galinsky
November 18, 2019

Some 55,000 United Auto Workers members at Ford Motor Co. will finish voting by Nov. 8 on a new contract patterned on the one recently approved by workers at General Motors after a 40-day strike. The strike by 49,000 GM workers showed their desire to fight to get rid of the multiple wage tiers through which the auto barons boost their profits by lowering their labor costs and keeping workers divided.  

The strike won widespread solidarity from workers and small business owners and was followed by millions of others, looking for ways to defend their interests against the bosses. 

The tentative Ford accord — like the one at GM — speeds up the wage “progression” for a layer of current workers who will now reach top wage in four years instead of eight, but keeps the multitier for new hires. Temp workers — currently stuck at the lowest wage tier, just over half the top rate  — will from now on be limited to 8% of the workforce at Ford. They are to become permanent employees after at most three years of continuous work and then subject to the same wage “progression” that the tiers of “permanent” workers face.  

Ilona Gersh and other Socialist Workers Party campaigners selling the Militant  at the Ford plant gate on Chicago’s South Side Nov. 6 learned what some UAW members think about the proposed contract. 

“I’m most concerned about fair wages,” said engine installer Jeremy Kennedy, 25. “I started as a temporary worker about a year ago and was hired full time after about five months. I make about $17 an hour.” He likes the contract provision that will get all current “permanent” workers to full pay in four years. 

“I wanted to eliminate the wage tiers and temp work altogether,” said Beatrice Watts, 39, an assembly worker. “But it looks like that’s not in the cards this time around.”