UAW-Ford Contract Sheds Light on Big Three’s Situation

Below are the five volumes of the current Master Contract between the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company, which we found on a UAW local Web site. The contract's 2,211 pages cover a wide range of issues, from the operation of apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades, to the provision of health care for retirees, to the procedures for resolving grievances.

Among the many issues that must be dealt with in charting a new course for Detroit's auto industry, whether through federal loans or in bankruptcy court (or both), is the role that the UAW has played in shaping GM, Chrysler and Ford. The sheer size of the contract suggests that collective bargaining has complicated daily operations at all three companies.

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The following is a brief summary of the five volumes:

Volume I begins with union recognition and agency fee clauses that designate the UAW as representative for Ford's blue-collar workforce and obligate all workers covered by the contract to either join the UAW or pay an agency fee in lieu of dues. Volume I also includes provisions regarding compensation, grievance procedures and seniority.

Volume II covers retirement and health insurance benefits.

Volume III covers supplemental unemployment benefits, profit sharing and the UAW-Ford Legal Services Program.

Volume IV is a collection of "Letters of Understanding" documenting and clarifying UAW and Ford practices, dating back as far as 1949.

Volume V is focused on the skilled trades. Some of the material may be repeated from the earlier five volumes.

The UAW's many critics, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy among them, have argued for years that imprudently generous wages and benefits combined with inefficient work rules have contributed greatly to the difficulties confronting the automakers. The long-term survival of Detroit's automakers depends on labor costs being brought in line with those of non-union competitors and with workplace procedures being streamlined.

While collective bargaining agreements are not generally made available to the public, the Mackinac Center is pleased to share its fortunate discovery with researchers, journalists, policymakers and concerned citizens so that they can evaluate it for themselves and draw their own conclusions about the work of the UAW and the state of the automobile industry.

Volume I

Volume II

Volume III

Volume IV

Volume V


Paul Kersey is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.

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