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Auto workers want prosperity delivered in new UAW-Ford Motor contract

The UAW will call a news conference today after presidents and chairs of its Ford Council review and then vote on a tentative four-year contract that is expected to be offered by Ford Motor Co. Bargainers are mum on all of the details going into the morning meeting in downtown Detroit because they don't want to jinx anything and nothing is signed yet.

No contract has been confirmed, offered or accepted, but if a deal materializes, "complete details of the tentative agreement will be made available to (UAW) members this afternoon, after the UAW Ford Council" makes its review and votes on it, the UAW Ford Department said on its Facebook page Monday evening.

After that the UAW will answer questions from the press. When that exchange concludes, "both the contract summary and the entire contract will be available on our Web site" for public scrutiny, the UAW Ford Department said in its Facebook post.

"Assuming we have a tentative agreement ... thank you for your understanding and support as we work towards bringing you a tentative agreement," the UAW bargaining team at Ford told its membership in the online communique.

Ford UAW workers' response to the Facebook posting online ranged from upbeat to guarded. One thing is for sure: The next contract is becoming more about money than was first thought. Auto workers like Melissa Thompson are worried about that and just want the people representing her to be fair.

"Thank you UAW, but don't be greedy," Thompson told UAW bargainers in a Facebook post Monday.

Ford workers like Dorothy Farris are angry about the disparate distribution of money between bosses and everyday people who work for a living. Farris asks: "Why is it the company is always saying the hourly auto workers need to take cuts and be more competitive with the foriegn companyies but no one is telling the CEOs to be competitive with the CEOs of foreign companies? Start leading by example and be competitive ... take a huge pay cut. BE COMPETITIVE!"

Ford worker David Hamilton believes he and his colleagues are in line now for immediate cash rewards for concessions that were made. He wants to one-up the UAW-General Motors Co. contract: "Let's just hope we got a BETTER deal than GM! Lump sum, cash up front isn't the key."

Ford metal model maker Lynn Terras Klenczar would rather have a contract that is done right instead of cooked up in haste. She is grateful for the efforts being made.

"Take your time and do it right," Klenczar urged bargainers. "Thanks for all the work on our behalf."

A growing number of Ford Motor's rank and file are girding for a better deal than GM got because Ford Motor made billions of dollars in profit in large part because union workers made concessions and sacrifices without being saddled with government bailout loan repayments. But UAW leaders cautioned that no numbers for the contract are firm yet.

Officials may take contract details to union workers for a ratification vote subsequent to this morning's meeting in Detroit if developments happen fast.

There is a push on both sides of the bargaining table to settle things quickly at Ford Motor because the UAW can legally strike Ford if talks get contentious, and Ford, like GM, wants to keep the profits coming. While the union has not struck Ford Motor since 1976, the growing unrest from the rank and file has created enough angst that such an idea is possible if the wrong things are said at the wrong time.

Union workers have been more interested in job retention and the adding of U.S. jobs than they have been in monetary gains, and so far all sides have been able to move toward their goals without acrimony. But money is fast becoming something that is moving up the ladder on the worker wish list. It's become an issue not just of compensation that expresses and measures true value but also on of respect and self-worth.

As Ford Motor workers digest what the UAW got from GM deal, the more they're letting UAW leaders know they expect the union to get substantially more from Ford, whose workers sacrificed considerably more than GM workers did during the most trying economic conditions.

Negotiations began in July but lingered and continued on after the 2007 UAW-Ford Motor contract expired on Sept. 14. Ford Motor and the UAW agreed to keep working under the old deal until the union and General Motors, the largest of the Detroit Three automakers, wrapped up their four-year agreement.

It just took three days for that to happen on Sept. 17 and a few days after that 48,500 UAW GM workers approved their new four-year contract by a better than 2-to-1 margin in nationwide voting at locals.

With GM all set, the UAW and Ford Motor have been going at it full bore at the bargaining table for eight days straight to make a deal for Ford's 41,000 UAW members.

If Ford Motor doesn't deliver to the union's satisfaction, there are those who are willing to walk a picket line.

Ford Motor worker Willie Wheeler has this advice for UAW bargainers who represent him: "Take your time and get it right or STRIKE!!!!!!!!"

Ford Motor has said "mutual trust" and the "respect" it has for the UAW will lead to a fair agreement.

"We are committed to negotiating this year with the same transparency and honesty we always have upheld," John Fleming, executive VP of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs for Ford Motor, said at the beginning of contract talks in July.

"It is more important than ever that we continue to look to the future, and not to the past. We simply cannot go back to the old way of doing business, which would threaten our momentum and hurt our ability to bring new investment and jobs into our U.S. plants. We can and will protect and grow jobs."

Hawke Fracassa covers the auto beat from Detroit for He can be reached [email protected] or (248) 747-1550. Follow him on Twitter @HawkeFracassa.

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