After four decades of service, Belvidere's Chrysler workers will soon receive the ultimate reward: A plant expansion, and 1,000 new jobs.
"For Belvidere, this is a complete change and it's the beginning of a change for the Chrysler group that will go beyond the successes we've used to date," Chrsyler Executive Vice President Frank Ewasyshyn said.
National UAW leaders credited Belvidere's Local 1268 for the three year, $419 million plant investment. The 1900 workers were honored last year as Chrysler's most efficient assembly plant.
"It's not me that did this. It's the corporation and the employees of Belvidere. Without that input of employees, this wouldn't happen," UAW Vice President Nate Gooden said.
But the facility's changes didn't come without hurdles. UAW 1268 narrowly rejected a new contract in early December. But the local UAW was able to get Chrysler's contract back on the table, where on the second vote, 91 percent of workers resoundingly said yes.
"They took the lead in changing things, and going into the new frontier. Because as you know when people make changes; it’s hard at first; it was difficult for them, but they realized that they had to do something," Gooden said.
To keep Chrysler in Illinois, Springfield is giving $36 million in various infrastructure and worker training grants. And while the millions assisted Chrysler's decision, there was more to this decision than corporate handouts.
"This workforce has always concentrated on what they can control, and they can control the performance of the plant, and the efficiency of the plant, and the management and union control these things," Belvidere Assembly Plant Manager Kurt Kavajecz said.
It’s a $400 million reward that will boost the Chrysler plant and a boost to make it one of the most efficient and flexible auto plants in the world, and make it a source of pride and major importance to the Stateline economy.