Uncertainty Looms at Chrysler Plant

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

Union leaders are voicing their concerns Thursday about the future of Belvidere's Chrysler plant.

Last night United Auto Workers, local 1268, voted narrowly to reject a tentative contract agreement with the company. UAW leaders are now worried that jobs may be in jeopardy.

After recovering from a bit of shock over Wednesday night's vote, United Auto Worker union leaders are trying to pick up the pieces at their Belvidere offices Thursday.

"I don't think the membership knows the position they just put us in," says union president C.D. Graham.

Fifty-six percent of local 1268 members voted no on a tentative contract agreement with Chrysler. Forty-four percent voted yes. There were a lot of changes for Belvidere plant workers in this new deal. They stem from the production of a new vehicle after the neon is retired in Sept. of 2005.

"We would be going from doing one job we normally do all day to learning how to do four to six jobs and rotating, whether it's every two hours or four hours," says Graham.

"This is a totally new work model; it's a team concept based on a Japanese model," says Financial Secretary Bill Campbell.

Campbell and Graham believe many workers simply don't like change, but they're now worried another form of change may come their way:

"In today's times, jobs come and go; anything can happen. You never give them a reason like this to take your job somewhere else," says Graham.

"It's a distinct possibility; there are other plants who want this vehicle and we're competing with those plants," says Campbell.

Union leaders plan to meet with plant managers Friday. They're ultimately hoping to get the deal before UAW members again for another vote. They're just hoping it's not too late.


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