Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Auto workers: Keep jobs on U.S. shores

Job security for autowokers comes more from the automakers making commitments to invest in U.S. plants than from the previous contracts that paid them whether or not they were working.Job security for autowokers comes more from the automakers making commitments to invest in U.S. plants than from the previous contracts that paid them whether or not they were working. By Chris Isidore, senior writer


DETROIT(CNNMoney) -- Job security for auto workers used to mean ironclad labor contracts that insured they got paid whether or not they were working.

But today, as the United Auto Workers union prepares to return to the bargaining table with the Big Three after four years of painful concessions and layoffs, the union has its eye on a new kind of security -- keeping jobs on U.S shores.

At the UAW meeting in Detroit this week, the union's top negotiators said what's most important to their members is winning guarantees from the automakers to keep investing in new U.S. plants, in order to ensure job security.

"We've adopted a jobs, jobs, jobs agenda," said General Holiefield, the union's chief negotiator with Chrysler Group.

Negotiators say that union members extending all the way down to rank-and-file workers on the assembly lines are worried about getting product commitments and investments from the automakers.

"When I talk to members, they're most concerned about security," said Jimmy Settles, the union's chief negotiator with Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500), which is widely expected to be the first company the union tries to reach a deal with this fall.

Settles said strong product commitment does much more to protect jobs than contract provisions such as the so-called jobs bank, which used to pay laid-off workers nearly their full salary during the life of a labor contract.

"Maybe that was not the best concept," said Settles. "That concept was to stop outsourcing of work. It was never supposed to be to pay people not to do anything."

Focusing on getting the companies to make product commitments is a smarter way to protect the jobs of auto workers, said Sean McAlinden, executive vice president of research at the Center for Automotive Research.

"They know when the company parks a half-billion dollars in a plant, those jobs are guaranteed as they can be," he said.

That has workers at plants which don't have new product guaranteed to them, such as the General Motors (GM) plant in Shreveport, La., or the Ford plants in St. Paul, Minn. or Avon Lake, Ohio, desperate to get those commitments in the upcoming talks, McAlinden said.

He said the old job guarantees played a big role in making the U.S. automakers less competitive with the non-union U.S. plants operated by Asian automakers. And he said union officials understand the risks if U.S. automakers become uncompetitive once again.

"You're not going to be able to keep plants open if you go back to bad old days," he said. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,564.94 -78.07 -0.47%
Nasdaq 4,783.36 -44.97 -0.93%
S&P 500 1,976.46 5.06 0.26%
Treasuries 2.20 0.01 0.64%
Data as of 3:50pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 10.63 0.13 1.24%
Apple Inc 113.11 -0.18 -0.16%
Bank of America Corp... 16.33 -0.03 -0.18%
Intel Corp 28.74 0.32 1.14%
Ford Motor Co 13.88 0.14 1.02%
Data as of 3:35pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

Walmart, facing higher labor costs due to raise in starting wage, is cutting workers' hours at some stores. More

A conservative think tank is sponsoring a Times Square billboard as a tribune to its opposition to a new minimum wage rule for fast food workers in New York state. More

Blue Apron, Boxed, and Nature Box are worth an estimated $2.5 billion. Their co-founders all went to the same high school. More

How do you run a successful crowdfunding campaign? Indiegogo's CEO Slava Rubin offers his top tips and mistakes to avoid. More

Looking for something good on Netflix? These entertaining films will help you learn more about finance and investing. More