DETROIT (Bernie Woodall) – Over the past two years, Ford Motor Co has roared back from the brink of failure, won accolades for its gains in quality, posted its highest profits in a decade and rewarded patient investors with a 14-fold increase in its share price.
But Mike LeBeau, 23, who works at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago making around $15 per hour and lives at a bedroom in his parent’s house, is not feeling the good times yet.
Like thousands of newly hired unionized auto workers brought in at half the wages of existing hires, he and others like him are looking for new contracts between the United Auto Workers and the Detroit automakers to share the wealth.
“I can make a car payment, and my student loan,” said LeBeau, a recent graduate of Purdue University. But he doesn’t have enough for a place of his own, he said.
UAW officials meet next week in Detroit to map out a final bargaining strategy for the first round of contract negotiations with Ford, General Motors Co, and Chrysler Group LLC since 2007.
They will square off against bargaining teams from GM, Ford and Fiat-controlled Chrysler who want to use this contract to break away from the industry’s long-criticized practice of coming out of a boom with the kinds of higher fixed costs that contribute to the next crushing bust.