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Ford Picked As UAW Strike Target

August 31, 1987

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) _ The United Auto Workers has chosen Ford Motor Co. as its strike target in this year’s national contract talks, UAW President Owen Bieber said today.

Bieber told the 300-member Council of General Motors Corp. Workers that the decision was best for the union and for workers at both companies.

The decision means bargaining, which began in late July with both companies, will intensify at Ford during the countdown toward a Sept. 14 contract expiration deadline.

If no agreement is reached by the deadline, the union could strike Ford.

GM, meanwhile, will be able to sit on the sidelines and watch without immediate fear that 1988 model production will be interrupted. The union would turn its attention to GM once it reached an agreement with Ford, and attempt to use the Ford agreement as a pattern.

″General Motors has built the contract the last two times. I feel it’s time for Ford to put together a contract we can all live under,″ said Joe Lefever, a representative of Local 192 in Maumee, Ohio.

Lefever said he believed the UAW could get a better contract at Ford because ″there are less problems at Ford.″

Jerome Melillo, a member of the union’s bargaining committee that has been negotiating with Ford, said Ford made a better target because of its higher profits and because Ford could better meet the union’s job security demands.

Ford had no immediate response to the UAW selection, but officials were expected to hold a news briefing later in the day. GM, meanwhile, said it would continue to pursue talks with the union.

″Despite the UAW’s decision to select Ford as the target company, General Motors is prepared to continue bargaining toward a contract settlement which recognizes the competitive realities of today’s marketplace and addresses the specific need of the corporation and its work force,″ said Alfred S. Warren Jr., the company’s chief negotiator.

″There are sufficent differences between GM and its domestic competitors that demand a separate agreement specifically tailored to GM,″ he said.

GM had no immediate comment on the union’s decision, and Ford said it would hold an afternoon press conference.

Some workers thought that the union might have trouble imposing any Ford agreement on GM.

″Had they chosen GM, they would have been selling out the Ford section. (The GM workers) are not going to settle for anything like the Ford workers would. We’re going to go. I wouldn’t be surprised at all,″ said Earl Hartman, of the GM Tech Center in Warren.

″Even if there’s a settlement at Ford I wouldn’t be surprised to see us walk in December (at GM.) We might be on strike in the snow,″ said James Hale of Local 326 in Flint.

The national bargaining committees that have been negotiating with the nation’s two largest automakers for five weeks were reporting today on progress and company offers to the 300-member GM worker council and a 200- member Ford worker council.

A meeting of the UAW’s 23-member executive board was scheduled to follow the larger meetings.

The UAW has rejected two GM offers and expressed displeasure with Ford’s only offer in a month of bargaining. Both three-year contracts expire at midnight Sept. 14. Chrysler Corp.’s contract doesn’t expire until 1988.

Bieber said neither company has made an offer that could serve as a basis for a settlement.

The UAW represents 335,000 active GM workers and 104,000 Ford workers, as well as laid-off workers and pensioners.

GM’s latest offer would include wage freezes with annual lump-sum payments, eliminate cost-of-living increases at parts plants and allow union locals to negotiate wage cuts at plants GM says are uncompetitive. That proposal is a radical departure from the traditional restriction of wage bargaining to the national level.

Ford’s offer would freeze wages, give lump-sum payments during the first year, and require local unions to change work rules and reduce job classifications in plants.

Canadian Auto Workers members, meanwhile, have given their union the authority to call a strike against Canadian subsidiaries of Chrysler, Ford and GM. CAW President Bob White said the union’s national executive board will meet Tuesday to decide which company will be the strike target or whether to extend the deadline past Sept. 14, when the current contract expires.

The 60,000-member Canadian union broke away from the UAW in 1985.

In the United States, bargaining will intensify Tuesday with the selected company, which is called the strike target because the union can strike it if no agreement is reached by the deadline.

Several factors go into selection of a strike target, which is the company that the union believes has the most to offer and either is more vulnerable or more willing to cooperate.

Ford outearned GM - $3.3 billion to $2.9 billion in 1986 - and in the first half of 1987, in which Ford already has earned another $2.9 billion. Despite its smaller size and slimmer market share, Ford is expected to outearn GM at least through next year.

The UAW has demanded a return to annual percentage raises, an increase in cost-of-living allowances and improved profit-sharing, especially at GM.

But money isn’t the union’s top demand. In an industry where imports have a steady hold on about 30 percent of the car market and where it has become cheaper to buy parts and cars from overseas or build them there, the union is most concerned about keeping jobs.

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