Surging sales at Fiat Chrysler and other U.S. auto makers have union workers fuming that the industry’s good fortunes aren’t reflected in industry wage talks.Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News
`Automobiles flew off dealer lots last month at the fastest pace in 10 years, but the good times are stirring tension between U.S. auto makers and their unionized workers that threatens to undercut the industry’s rebound.
United Auto Workers union members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV this week rejected for the first time in three decades a tentative agreement as inadequate, and Ford Motor Co. faces a walkout at a big truck factory as soon as Sunday.
As buyers flood dealer lots, snapping up pricey pickups and sport-utility vehicles that deliver fat profits to General Motors Co. , Ford and Fiat Chrysler, factory workers are demanding an end to the concessions that put the U.S. industry back on its feet after near collapse seven years ago.
“We got a catered meal of hot dogs and hamburgers as our thanks while others, I’m sure, got big bonuses,” said Phil Reiter, a 44-year-old union member referring to a recent production milestone at Fiat Chrysler’s Toledo, Ohio, Jeep factory. That plant on Tuesday rejected a UAW supported contract by a more than 4-to-1 ratio.
The workers are angry that neither union officials nor Fiat Chrysler want to eliminate a concession put in place just ahead of the 2008 recession that pays some assembly-line staff substantially less than co-workers doing the same work. The same two-tier system exists to a lesser extent at GM and Ford.
Surging sales aren’t helping the relationship. U.S. car and light-truck sales rose nearly 16% last month compared with the same period a year ago, an annualized pace of 18.17 million vehicles. It was only the ninth time in history the monthly pace eclipsed 18 million, and the first time since 2005.