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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2003

Contract talks for Jeep to remain separate

Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant workers won't be negotiating their next labor contract with DaimlerChrysler AG alongside the international United Auto Workers this year, despite adopting a one-year pact last fall to coincide with the expiration of the national UAW-Chrysler agreement.

The plan to have Toledo Jeep join the national contract was rejected by UAW Vice President Nate Gooden, according to Nick Vuich, the UAW leader at Toledo Jeep.

That will allow the city's most notable employer to negotiate its own fate with Chrysler, as it has in the past, but means the local union would have no say so in establishing the terms of the national contract. The national wage and benefit terms mostly have been accepted by Local 12 in the past, however.

Mr. Vuich, who outlined the dispute in the latest Toledo Union Journal published by the local UAW, did not return repeated calls for comment in the past two days.

Mr. Gooden also did not return calls seeking comment, and Lloyd Mahaffey, director of the Toledo-based UAW Region 2-B, could not be reached.

Although it was expected that Toledo Jeep workers would be folded into the national agreement when it is renegotiated in September, Mr. Gooden apparently changed his mind.

At a meeting with UAW delegates at Chrysler plants last fall, during which Mr. Vuich was excluded from some sessions, the Toledo UAW leader was asked to address union leaders from other Chrysler plants. He told them “we would be a stronger union if we were one,” Mr. Vuich's column states.

But some members oppose Toledo Jeep's inclusion. Mr. Vuich, in his column, said he answered questions at the meeting about pay and “vehemently denied stealing any products from them.” Some time after that, he received a note from Mr. Gooden saying Local 12 would not be part of the national agreement. The local has 4,400 members.

Toledo Jeep has not been covered under the master contract the UAW has with Chrysler since the automaker, now part of DaimlerChrysler, bought the plant from the former American Motors Corp. in 1987.

Former Local 12 representatives had been reluctant to join the national agreement, partially because they believed the aging Toledo Jeep needed a competitive advantage. For years, Toledo Jeep workers were paid $1 an hour less than workers at other Chrysler factories. But wages were equalized in 1997, and the employees who make Jeep Libertys and Wranglers make an average of about $24 an hour.

The onetime lower wage rates, however, appear to continue to be a sticking point with leaders at other Chrysler plants. In the early 1990s, Jeep Wrangler production returned to Toledo Jeep from a plant that was closing, and the Toledo plant added some Dodge Dakota production for two years.

Mr. Vuich's article noted that Mr. Gooden worked at the Warren, Mich., truck plant, from which Dakota production temporarily was diverted to Toledo Jeep.

In the article, Mr. Vuich said he will continue to pursue the council-inclusion matter with Mr. Mahaffey and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

Although Local 12 is not part of the council, company and union negotiators previously have agreed to adopt wage scales, health-care benefits, pension changes, and other economic terms from the national agreement.



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