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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2003

UAW plans a strike vote at Jeep plant


Further, the leaders implied they may call a strike if they do not have a new contract by Sept. 14, when the pact for the 4,400 United Auto Workers members at the plant expires.

The vote, set for August 7, is several weeks earlier in the negotiating process than usual, union representatives said. Workers were notified of the move yesterday by union representatives.

The ballot issue, which is almost certain to win approval, would give union leaders authority to call a walkout if a new labor contract covering the plant's workers is not reached by Sept. 14.

“While we do not take a strike or the authorization for one lightly, we feel it is necessary to remind the corporation that the `other UAW plant' in their company will cease production of Jeeps with the expiration of our contract,” wrote the plant's UAW committee led by Chairman Nick Vuich.

The three-factory plant is the only source of the carmaker's hot-selling Jeep Liberty sport-utility vehicle and the Jeep Wrangler.

The Toledo plant is the only DaimlerChrysler assembly operation not covered by a national company-UAW contract. National negotiators for both sides have begun talks toward a new agreement to the replace the accord that also expires Sept. 14.

The local operation has had a separate contract since its purchase by the former Chrysler Corp. 16 years ago. The local made a move to join the national agreement, but the movement fell apart early this year. Years ago, Jeep workers received slightly lower pay compared with their Chrysler counterparts nationally, but now pay and other terms of the Toledo and national contracts are nearly the same.

Dan Bodene, a spokesman for the car maker in Auburn Hills, Mich., said the Toledo plant is the first to schedule a strike vote in the current round of bargaining.

“It's an internal union matter,” he said. “In the general course of negotiations, a strike vote is not unusual. It's a routine matter.”

In a telephone interview yesterday, the Toledo plant's UAW chairman expressed dissatisfaction that Toledo negotiations have apparently been put on hold by Chrysler while executives negotiate the national pact. DaimlerChrysler officials earlier indicated they wanted to conclude a pact in Toledo before the national talks.

“We're not meeting with the company at all,” Mr. Vuich said. “Our last conversations were two weeks ago and we're only 48 days away from expiration of our contract.”

Union representatives have scheduled meetings for Friday at the UAW Local 12 hall to discuss the strike authorization vote.

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