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United Auto Workers locals support new contract with Ford Motor Co

United Auto Workers locals in Michigan and Illinois stand for a new contract with Ford Motor Co.

Eighty-two percent of those who voted from Local 898, which represents about 1,200 workers at Ford's Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti Township, supported the new four-year deal, while 75 percent of the 900 union members at Local 588 at a Chicago stamping plant were in favor.

Dozens of locals at plants across the U.S. are voting on the pact through the weekend. The agreement was reached in the early morning hours of Nov. 3 after a nearly two-day bargaining session at Ford's Dearborn headquarters.

At the Rawsonville plant, which makes starters, coils and carbon canisters, union members favored the deal because they are guaranteed work through the life of the contract, said local President Ralph Mayer.

Because it makes small components that can be outsourced to parts supply companies, the plant's future has been in jeopardy for 25 years, and workers are happy to have guaranteed work, Mayer said.

In Chicago, where the plant's main stampings are hoods, doors, roofs and floors, the contract was more popular among production workers than skilled trades, but it still passed overwhelmingly, said local President Bill Jackson.

Skilled trades workers approved the deal 195-112, while production workers voted 305-58 in favor, indicating that most workers were satisfied with the deal, Jackson said.

A majority of Ford workers must approve the contract before it can take effect. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said voting should be completed by Monday evening.

The union represents about 54,000 U.S. hourly workers at Ford. Similar contracts already have been approved at General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, although the Chrysler vote was very close.

Local union presidents and bargaining chairmen voted unanimously Monday to recommend passage of the agreement at a daylong meeting in Dearborn.

Industry analysts say the contract should help the ailing automaker by lowering wages for thousands of new workers and moving its retiree health care obligations to a union-run trust.

In exchange for the wage cuts and other concessions, Ford promised not to close any U.S. plants beyond some it already has identified. It also promised future products to six U.S. assembly plants and agreed to make hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of improvements to factories.

But layoffs announced by Chrysler and GM shortly after their contracts were ratified have some Ford workers skeptical of the deal. Last week Chrysler said it would cut 8,500 to 10,000 hourly jobs through 2008. Last month, GM said it would cut shifts at three Michigan plants, affecting 1,700 jobs.

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