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Chicago Ford Workers Reject New Contract, National Strike May Lie Ahead

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Inside Ford's South Side Chicago assembly plant. | AP

Members of the United Auto Workers Union at the Chicago Ford auto plant on Thursday rejected a proposed contract that would add more than 1,100 new jobs to the city's economy.

A Thursday morning announcement on the United Auto Workers Local 551's Facebook page said that an overwhelming majority -- 77 percent -- of their members voted against the four-year contract, which would implement a new third shift at the Torrence Avenue plant on the city's South Side.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the contract offered profit-sharing and signing bonuses, rather than a wage increase. The 1,100 newly hired employees earning $19.28 an hour would also be making far less than current employees, a likely sore spot for union members who have turned the plan down. Workers at another Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Mich., narrowly rejected the contract this week.

As voting continues at plants throughout the country, the union has warned workers nationwide to prepare for a possible strike. Voting is expected to be completed by Oct. 18.

"We were given direction earlier today to prepare for a strike," Grant Morton, plant chairman of UAW Local 551, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Morton added that his union's members "obviously had multiple issues. We'll talk to the membership and find out what those issues are."

Workers represented by Local 558 at a Chicago Heights metal stamping facility are expected to vote on the contract Thursday.

The 1,100 proposed jobs at the Chicago plant were part of a nationwide, tentative agreement announced last week. Under the plan, Ford would hire 12,000 new workers nationwide.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had both applauded Ford and UAW's proposed contract earlier this month. Quinn said he was "extremely pleased" by the development, while Emanuel described the now-sidelined deal as "a victory for Ford, a victory for workers and a victory for Chicago," as NBC Chicago reported.

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