Economic Development

Striking UAW 1112 Workers Want GM Car for Lordstown

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – The shop chairman for United Auto Workers Local 1112 said Monday he was confident his international leadership would do their best to secure some kind of work for the General Motors Lordstown Complex, but said his preference remains for the automaker to assign the plant a new vehicle to build. 

Negotiations resumed this morning between GM and the UAW as union members mounted pickets at the Lordstown plant’s gates and at GM plants nationwide. The existing four-year agreement between the UAW and GM expired Saturday night and union members began picketing at midnight Monday.

In a statement issued Sunday, GM said it presented a “strong offer” that improved wages and benefits, and would grow U.S. jobs in substantive ways.” According to the Associated Press, GM offered investments totaling $7 billion and would create 5,400 new jobs, though a minority would go to existing workers.

The company was “disappointed” that UAW leadership elected to strike.

“We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business,” GM said in the emailed statement. 

Other provisions of the proposal included investments in eight facilities in four states, the opportunity to become the first union-represented battery cell manufacturing site in the United States, the introduction of all-new electric vehicles and additional new vehicle and propulsion systems.  

Members also would have received wage or lump-sum increases in all four years of the agreement, an improved profit-sharing formula, ratification payment of $8,000, retention of nationally leading health-care benefits, and new coverage for autism therapy, chiropractic care and allergy testing.  

Dan Morgan, UAW Local 1112 shop chairman, said he received a copy of a letter sent to GM from the international union stating that it was “disheartening to have the first proposal handed across the table” two hours before the contract expired. 

“It seems like General Motors wasn’t really even serious about getting an agreement,” he said. Had an offer been presented sooner, there’s a chance the strike could have been averted, he said.  

According to GM, its offer included “solutions for unallocated assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio.” According to media reports, a battery cell manufacturing operation would be sited at the Lordstown plant. The battery operation would reportedly be in addition to Lordstown Motors’ proposal to build electric-powered trucks in part of the plant. 

UAW members want to build vehicles in Lordstown, Morgan said, but if something else “has to shake out,” he’s confident that the international “will do their best to secure some work around here for us and our members.

“Our overall goal is to see product put back in that facility and put our people back that shouldn’t have been moved in the first place,” he continued. 

UAW leadership doesn’t favor the Lordstown Motors proposal, he said. “I hope they hold their ground and that that doesn’t move forward because we want to put GM product in that facility,” he said. 

Workers picketing in front of the idled GM Lordstown Complex echoed Morgan’s sentiments. 

“We’re all hopeful for a new product here at Lordstown. We’ve got a great workforce here, and the facility and the location is phenomenal,” Greg Slusher, district committeeman at the Lordstown plant, said.

Slusher, who has been at the plant for 25 years and part of the local’s leadership for the past 10, said he heard the media reports regarding the battery plant but “nothing is set in stone” regarding the plant. 

“We just want to hopefully see this plant reopened. It’s important. It’s vital to this Valley,” Doug Barker, production worker at the plant for nearly 38 years, said. 

Workers are picketing to receive “fair treatment” from the company, he said. GM has made money every year since exiting bankruptcy and workers have not benefited as much. 

“That last contract we got some back but we’ve given up a lot to the company over the years and now it’s time for them to do right by us,” he said. 

Should Lordstown Motors move forward with its plans for the plant, Barker is convinced that GM needs to pay a role in the company. 

“I don’t know if that’ll provide the good-paying jobs that we’ve had here working with General Motors,” he said. 

Pictured: UAW Local 1112 members Ted Allen, George Klass, Dan Santangelo, Dale McMinn and Doug Barker picket outside the idled GM Lordstown Complex

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.