Union Votes Yes to Contract at Daimler Chrysler Plant

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Hundreds of workers in Belvidere are breathing a collective sigh of relief after the local United Auto Workers Union approved a new contract.

The ‘yes’ vote means that three new Chrysler vehicles will be produced right here in the stateline for at least a decade. At about eight o'clock Thursday, the howls and screams were evident at UAW headquarters.

In one of the largest contract votes ever for a local Daimler plant contract, 91 percent of workers vote yes, keeping jobs right here.

UAW President C.D. Graham says the new contract will bring in as many as 1,000 new jobs to the Daimler Chrysler plant, and likely add two shifts.

Vehicle-wise, the contract will produce three Chrysler models for the next 12 to 15 years after the last Dodge Neon comes off the line next year.

Union leaders admit many workers felt rushed in voting on the contract last week, but are ecstatic that given a second chance workers overwhelmingly say yes.

"We've got the best workforce at Daimler Chrysler plant. We are number one in quality, number one in absenteeism, we are number one in safety, we are number one in the corporation and our members showed it by voting 91 percent yes," Graham said.

The new local contract goes into effect starting September 2005, and is good until 2011. UAW's national contract, which deals with pay and benefits, expires in 2007.

An official announcement is expected in the coming weeks at the plant.