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UAW pay raises not retroactive, workers forfeit money each day until contract ratification

Every day that passes without a ratified UAW contract is a day of delayed pay raise for hourly auto industry workers.

"Will there be back pay until September, when the contract should have passed?" is among frequently asked questions on the UAW website devoted to contract talks. The response: "No, it is effective upon ratification."

Raises are not retroactive to Sept. 14, the date labor contracts expired with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. GM workers lived on $275 a week strike pay and delayed their pay raises by six weeks. That accounts for the beefy $11,000 bonus upon ratification, to make up for lost ground.

Also, the UAW voting period on the GM contract was compressed because the workers and the company wanted to get beyond the conflict and return to the factories. Union leadership decided to continue the strike until the deal was ratified.

Meanwhile, Ford workers are headed into their eighth week of delayed pay raises as local union halls hold elections that will end Nov. 15. Ford is offering a $9,000 ratification bonus. Workers continue to work as the deal has been negotiated and voted upon.

FCA negotiations led by UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada are delayed until Ford completes its voting process, which is a standard part of the pattern bargaining protocol. FCA hasn't yet begun the final push to get to a proposed tentative agreement for UAW National FCA Council to review, or a tentative agreement for its members to review, or the start of the voting process.

Meanwhile, workers employed by Ford cast votes at local union halls around the country. Ford employs 55,000 hourly workers, the most of any automaker in America.

So far, the tentative contract appears to be winning support. It has been approved by Ford workers at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant south of Detroit by UAW Local 3000, the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne by UAW Local 900, the Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights by UAW Local 2280, the Ford Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti by UAW 898, the New Model Programs Development Center in Allen Park by UAW Local 931, and the Buffalo Stamping Plant in New York by UAW Local 897.

Only the Chicago Assembly Plant has voted no, with fewer than half the workers affiliated with UAW Local 551 casting votes.

All vote totals and percentages posted online by local unions are unofficial. The final vote total will be released by the UAW International on Nov. 15. Ford workers will cast votes until 7:30 p.m. Friday and the UAW will release official totals later that night, said Brian Rothenberg, UAW spokesman.

GM workers ratified their contract affecting 48,000 workers Oct. 25.

Randy Lashbrook, plant chairman at Romeo Engine Plant, said many of the 600 or so members of UAW Local 400 will meet with a team from the UAW International office on Thursday to review the contract.

"We're the only building with Ford closing and we have a lot of questions," he said early Saturday. "Our voting will cease at 5 p.m. on Friday."

Todd Dunn, president of UAW Local 862 in Louisville, Ky., was tied up in ratification meetings already by 8:28 a.m. Saturday. He is preparing to do all he can to arm thousands of workers at the Kentucky Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly with information as they prepare to vote in coming days.

If Ford workers ratify the four-year contract, FCA is expected to begin its final negotiations on Nov. 18. While UAW contract talks usually end by Thanksgiving, the 2019 process is expected to stretch into mid-December before everything finishes, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

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