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Ford workers voted to ratify a new four-year contract between the United Auto Workers union and the automaker that includes $9,000 signing bonuses and $6 billion in U.S. investment, including $200 million at the Chicago Assembly Plant.

Workers at the 95-year-old automotive plant on the Calumet River in Hegewisch just across the state line had voted to reject the deal, while workers at the Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights voted to accept it. It was approved by a majority — an estimated 56.3% — of the automaker's 55,000 hourly employees in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois and New York.

Ford said the deal will create or secure 8,500 hourly jobs in the United States, as well as offer employees pay increases, bonuses and profit-sharing. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said its cost structure will remain similar to domestic competitors under the agreement, which it says improves its powertrain capacity utilization and maintains its best-in-class assembly plant capacity utilization in North America.

“We are pleased that we were able to reach an agreement quickly with the UAW without a costly disruption to production,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Automotive. “This deal helps Ford enhance our competitiveness and protect good-paying manufacturing jobs. Working with the UAW, we have added flexibility to our operations while keeping labor costs in line with projected U.S. manufacturing labor inflation costs and still rewarded our workers for their important contributions to the company.”

Ford is the largest employer of UAW-represented autoworkers in the United States and also the country's No. 1 producer of vehicles. The agreement allows the company to increase its use of temporary employees and offer a special retirement program that will help to lower its labor cost.

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Full-time workers will get a $9,000 bonus, while temporary workers will pull in $3,500 bonuses and get a guaranteed path to permanent full-time employment.

“Every Ford employee and temporary employee will be at the top rate for full-time status at the end of this four-year agreement,” said Acting UAW President Rory Gamble, who is director of the UAW Ford Department. “This is a life-changing contract for many and provides a template for all future Ford UAW members to a full-time, top-rate status. There will be no more permanent temporary situations and no more permanent tiers.”

The deal will cost Ford $700 million in expenses in the fourth quarter, mostly from the ratification bonus. Workers also will get two annual 3% raises, two 4% lump-sum payments, and performance bonuses.

“I want to thank the Ford National Negotiating team and the many UAW staff and members who stood together and crafted a strong contract for both today’s members and future members,” Gamble said. “Ford’s commitment to job security and assembly in the United States is a model for American manufacturers.” 

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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.