Officials in the Obama administration have been negotiating with the leaders of Chrysler, Fiat and the United Auto Workers to find a way to salvage Chrysler. A deal has been tentatively reached that gives all parties an ownership stake in the company. In the deal, the UAW would get 55% of Chrysler’s stock, but that majority stake is in return for the latest round of concessions to the U.S. auto maker and now the U.S. government. But UAW members still have to ratify what their union leaders have agreed to and some aren’t biting this time. Two UAW members who will be heading out to vote on the plan today and are stopping by The Takeaway first. Ken Mefford is an hourly worker in Chrysler’s Warren Plant in Michigan and Stephanie Ramberger is a laid-off autoworker waiting to be put back on the job.
John Hockenberry, The Takeaway: Good morning. John Hockenberry here, with Daljit Dahliwal. Good morning, Daljit.
Daljit Dhaliwal, The Takeaway: Hello there.
John Hockenberry: So officials in the Obama administration have been negotiating with the leaders of Chrysler, Fiat — that's an Italian auto company in Turin — and the United Autoworkers Union here in the United States, in an attempt to salvage Chrysler. A deal has tentatively been reached that gives all parties an ownership stake. Well, we shall see. UAW members are voting today to ratify the deal, and the wage and benefit concessions in it. Joining us today are two UAW members who will be heading out to vote today. Ken Mefford is an hourly worker in Chrysler’s Warren Plant in Michigan. Good morning, Ken.
Ken Mefford, Chrysler's Warren Plant: Good morning, Sir.
John Hockenberry: And Stephanie Ramberger is a laid-off worker waiting to be put back to work. She joins us on the line from Kokomo, Indiana. Stephanie, thanks for being with us.
Stephanie Ramberger, laid-off auto worker: Good morning. Thank you.
John Hockenberry: So more negotiations, more concessions for you guys. Stephanie, how do you size up this vote and have you made up your mind?
Stephanie Ramberger: Oh yeah, I think I'm going to vote yes.
John Hockenberry: And do you think that's the only way for you to get back to work?
Stephanie Ramberger: Oh yeah, definitely.
John Hockenberry: Do you have any sort of promise that you will be going back to work if this deal goes through?
Stephanie Ramberger: Oh no, no promises. I'm just assuming if we get back to work and we make some transmissions, that they're going to need more employees in there. So I'm just hoping right now.
John Hockenberry: Ken Mefford, I hear a little skepticism in Stephanie’s voice. How are you feeling this morning?
Ken Mefford: I'm going to vote no just out of conscience. I mean, I'm hoping for the best and I think it's going to be. I think it's basically our only hope. But I'm going to vote no just out of conscience.
John Hockenberry: Now, just describe to me what it is you've given up in this latest round and the cash value of it as far as the Union is telling you.
Ken Mefford: I have it right in front of me.
John Hockenberry: OK.
Ken Mefford: And basically I can run through it real quick. And it's just you're talking about giving up. I mean some of it was kind of petty, like six minutes on break which is no big deal. But when you, I mean holiday pay, you're giving up two paid holidays. That's a couple hundred dollars per holiday. Cost of living, which we've given up a couple of months ago, they're going to make semi-permanent, as in we're losing a dollar an hour for the next two years. That’s $160 a month, figure a dollar times 40 hours. And you're losing Christmas bonus, that's losing $600 for the next two years, which was right around $350 after taxes.
John Hockenberry: Well, it's real money if you add it up with all the employees. That's for sure.
Ken Mefford: Three percent this year that we're losing, four percent next year. That right there, depending, would be somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000 this year, and then about — that extra percent next year. You're talking about a 10 percent pay cut, give or take.
John Hockenberry: Now, Ken and Stephanie, either of you pipe in here. Do either of you know who’s getting this money? Who’s getting the savings? Who benefits from this, exactly?
Ken Mefford: Basically, the car companies because that much --
John Hockenberry: You’ve got to be more specific. Is it Fiat that’s getting this money? Is it the federal government that gets this money because they paid in?
Ken Mefford: All of the above.
John Hockenberry: All of the above.
Ken Mefford: Basically, anybody that owns — anybody that’s going to get a stake in the company.
John Hockenberry: Well, Ken Mefford, and the union of course will be getting a stake in the company. How much do you think that’s worth?
Ken Mefford: They’re getting 55 percent, they said, when this is said and done.
John Hockenberry: So, Stephanie Ramberger, any idea when you’ll get back to work?
Stephanie Ramberger: Nope, I have no clue. I just hope I have a job, so.
John Hockenberry: We’ve got one yes vote here from Stephanie Ramberger in Kokomo, Indiana. And Ken Mefford, that’s a no vote but more of a protest than an actual hope that this goes down. Ken Mefford is an hourly worker in Warren, Michigan. Ken and Stephanie, thank you so much for being with us.
Ken Mefford: Can I say one thing? One reason I’m doing a no vote is this: the last three or four contracts, and you’re talking roughly four years per contract, every contract for the last three, four contracts or more has been worse than the last. I’m just getting sick and tired of hearing, you know, "Well, we have to do it for the Daimler, you have to do it for the (unintelligible). You have to..." You know, I’m getting sick and tired of the union coming by and saying, "I don’t like this and it’s a lousy contract but you have to vote yes." Well, I want to hear the UAW and stuff say, “We like this contract. This is good for us and good for the company. Vote yes.”
John Hockenberry: Alright Ken, I hear you.
Ken Mefford: I haven't heard that in ages.
John Hockenberry: Let's put that directly to my next guest and thanks to you both, Stephanie and Ken.