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Lear workers vote again to reject a contract offer

Lear Corp., which is building a new $30 million factory in Hammond, is negotiating a new contract with workers.

Lear workers in Hammond and Portage have voted a second time to reject a contract proposal, again by a margin of more than two to one.

A total of 311 auto workers voted to rebuff the deal, while 155 members of Hammond-based United Auto Workers Local 2335 voted to approve it, according to the union. About half the workers sat the vote out entirely.

In October, union members voted 364 to 125 to reject the first contract proposal the UAW brought back to workers in October.

Workers at the seat assembly plants in Hammond and Portage, which supply Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch, have already voted to authorize a strike.

UAW President Jamie Luna, Local 2335 officials, and Southfield, Mich.-based Lear did not respond to requests for comment. The UAW has said the proposed contract included a pay increase without publicly going into detail.

During the last round of contract talks in 2014, the union briefly went on strike, but ended up securing a four-year contract with up to $21.58 an hour for its members, who had been making as little as $13 an hour.

Workers, however, had concerns about a two-tier system in which newer employees at Lear's seat subassembly plant at the AmeriPlex at the Port business park in Portage were paid less under different job titles to essentially do the same work.

Workers at the Portage plant have complained about not getting as much pay, bonuses or overtime as their peers in Hammond.

After opening the plant in Portage after the last contract was ratified in 2014, Lear has been consolidating its Northwest Indiana operations in Hammond, with a new $30 million plant under construction that will employ an estimated 875 workers just south of the South Shore Line station in East Chicago.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.