Delphi workers ratify contract

PERKINS TWP. Tom Zimmerman was happy when he learned the United Auto Workers Local 913 voted to approve a contract agreement
May 24, 2010



Tom Zimmerman was happy when he learned the United Auto Workers Local 913 voted to approve a contract agreement with Delphi Corp.

But only for himself.

"I think some of them were disappointed," Zimmerman said, referring to his production co-workers.

As a skilled trades worker, Zimmerman said his wages would remain the same under the new contract, while production workers would get their wages reduced by about $13 an hour.

"It benefited the majority of the people. I think we could have gotten hurt a lot worse than this," he said, adding that earlier proposals from the auto parts maker had been "bad."

Across the nation, union workers cast their votes this week to accept or reject the Troy-based company's contract offer that would slash wages and allow some plant closings, but preserve jobs for thousands of workers. Workers at the Perkins Township plant turned in their ballots Wednesday and Thursday.

As of Friday evening, the final tally of the local union's votes was unavailable. However, many workers said the agreement had been accepted by the local union. One union worker said information was posted inside the plant stating the contract had passed by 140 votes. UAW Local 913 president Ralph Brumby did not return calls seeking comment Thursday or Friday.

Sixty-eight percent of the Delphi workers who voted this week nationwide were in favor of the contract while 32 percent voted against it, according to a statement from UAW International Union President Ron Gettelfinger.

Workers leaving the Perkins Township plant on Friday expressed mixed emotions about the ratification of the contract. Many employees did not share the same views as their co-workers.

"Under the circumstances, I think we've done well," said one skilled trades worker who has worked at the plant for the past two years.

"This agreement is not necessarily conclusive to the future of this plant," said another employee, who has worked at the plant for about a year.

A group of production workers said they were unhappy with the results.

"It's not a good feeling," said one employee.

"It sucks," said another worker from Vickery.

One experienced employee, who has worked at the plant for 36 years, said he did not vote.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It's all decided anyway."

Ashlee Harper, of Bellevue, said she skipped the union's informational meeting about the contract on Monday and cast her vote against the offer because she "didn't feel it was appropriate." But after learning the details behind the deal, she said she would have voted differently. The new information Harper learned was that newer employees would receive raises earlier while topping out at their highest wages.

"Everybody wants a raise," she said.

Ratifying the agreement will now move the auto supplier closer to emerging from bankruptcy. In 2005, Delphi Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and officials announced that many plants would be sold or shut down, including the Perkins Township plant.

Many workers were given letters from UAW General Motors Department Vice President and Director Cal Rapson. The letter stated that 7,613 workers had voted in favor of the agreement and 3,612 workers had voted against it.

U.S. Delphi Energy & Chassis, 2509 Hayes Ave., makes wheel spindle bearings, roller clutches for transmissions and water pump assemblies for cars and trucks. The plant employs more than 1,000 employees including 190 salaried employees and 900 hourly employees represented by UAW Local 913.

About 17,000 workers at 17 Delphi facilities across the nation were eligible to vote on the deal that would allow some plant closing and cut wages from $27 per hour for veteran workers to a pay range that runs from $14 to $18.50.

GM shares fell 38 cents to $37.77 in afternoon trading, while Ford shares slipped 6 cents to $9.43 and DaimlerChrysler's U.S. shares rose $1.08 to $91.98.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.