Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on UAW contract negotiations

As auto executives watch and wait, UAW leaders are working to strategically decide which company to target for contract negotiations that will directly impact the lives of 148,661 hourly workers — and smart money at the moment is on Ford. No decisions have been made yet. The announcement is expected around Labor Day, less than two weeks before expiration of the UAW's contracts with Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Half a dozen interviews with industry and union sources close to negotiations suggest the union’s relationship with Ford is widely viewed as the most stable and least contentious. Union negotiators consider Ford a good-faith partner in what is, at best, a brutal collective bargaining process that will include fights over steep health-care costs, hourly wage increases, the use of temporary workers, and shrinking an eight-year "grow-in" period required for full-time workers to reach top wages. Sources close to the UAW say if labor leaders can find agreement with Ford and establish a baseline that can be force-fed to other companies, known as “pattern” bargaining, then workers will assess whether a strike on one or all of the Detroit Three would be effective. For the automakers, health-care costs are a huge issue. “You’ll find that autoworkers pay about 3 percent of their cost of health care, while a typical employee is paying 29 percent. That cost difference puts the company in a difficult situation,” said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University with expertise in labor affairs. 

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