LOUISVILLE, Ky., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- United Auto Worker officials in Louisville, Ky., said Ford Motor Co. employees voted 98.7 percent in favor of authorizing strike if contract talks break down.
The vote is considered a formality more than a call for a walkout. Ford has not endured a strike since the 1970s and talks are reportedly going well this year.
But workers want union negotiators to recover some of the lost pay and benefits members gave up starting in 2003 to keep Ford solvent, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported Wednesday.
In 2007, the union contract backed up on pay raises, overtime rules and break time, the newspaper said.
UAW President Bob King has estimated union members have given up between $7,000 and $30,000 since 2005.
At this point, "The membership has been clear about what they want out of these talks," said UAW Local 862 President Todd Dunn.
A strike authorization, he said, "is a tool in the tool belt," adding members would take their cue from UAW's leaders concerning when, if ever, workers actually go on strike.
King has said the UAW is concerned with bringing newly hired workers to the status of the middle class, which he said is not possible with the rate for new workers at $15.51 per hour.
Established workers make $28.48 per hour, but some union members have said there are not enough newly hired workers to make the issue pertinent yet.
Ford may also prove stubborn about raising the initial wage, said James Anderson, a Ford trade maintenance worker from Goshen, Ky.
A Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said the company has only hired 100 workers -- out of a workforce of 40,000 -- at the lower wage.
"The new, lower-paid workers haven't been hired here yet," said Local 862 representative Mark Dowell.