UAW 1112 ‘Disappointed and Angry’; Will Vote Wednesday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As the United Auto Workers set to vote on the tentative contract agreement with General Motors, UAW Local 1112 President Tim O’Hara says his gut feeling is the agreement will be ratified, followed by the final shuttering and sale of the GM Lordstown Complex.

The union’s international wants the vote on the tentative four-year agreement concluded by 4 p.m. Oct. 25, meaning all locals must vote by that time, O’Hara says. Voting begins Saturday. Local 1112 will likely have its members vote Oct. 23, and O’Hara expects many to vote “no,” whether they are still in the Mahoning Valley or have transferred, he says.

“For our members, obviously we’re disappointed and angry,” O’Hara says. “Our hopes were that during this negotiation, the international could secure another product for us from GM to reopen our plant.”

On March 6, the Lordstown Complex rolled its last Cruze sedan off the line before closing its doors and leaving some 1,600 workers without a job. About 1,200 of those workers have since transferred to other GM facilities, O’Hara says. “We have about another 450 who refused to transfer, but they’re still members of the local,” he says.

The agreement needs a majority vote to pass and some of those picketing outside the Lordstown Complex Thursday are anticipating it will do so. The strike that began more than a month ago is continuing until after the vote is concluded.

Throughout the strike, the community has supported the picketers by bringing food, water and firewood, and “we certainly appreciate that,” O’Hara says. Workers have also received support from educational institutions, including trade schools, Youngstown State University and Eastern Gateway Community College, in getting retrained for new jobs.

“A lot of our people went back to the technical schools. Some are learning how to drive a truck. HVAC repair. Heavy equipment operators,” he says.

During a press conference following the national council meeting Oct. 17, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the UAW-GM council had “voted to recommend for ratification the contract.” The strike became “more than just a strike,” he continued, saying it was “about the hearts and minds of American workers and the middle class.”

In a statement Thursday, GM encouraged the UAW “to move as quickly as possible through the ratification process, so we can resume operations and get back to producing vehicles for our customers. Our goal during these negotiations was to ensure the future of General Motors is one that works for our employees, dealers, suppliers and the communities where we operate. The agreement reflects our commitment to U.S. manufacturing through the creation of new jobs and increased investment.”

In addition to the Lordstown assembly plant, the agreement confirms the closure of the Baltimore Operations in Maryland and Warren Transmission in southeastern Michigan. The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant will continue to operate, building a new electric truck. When the announcement was made in November 2018, Detroit-Hamtramck was originally among the plants that GM said wouldn’t be allocated a new vehicle, as was the the Oshawa plant in Ontario, Canada.

UAW 1112 President Tim O’Hara expects many of the members to vote “no” on Wednesday.

As of Oct. 18, O’Hara confirmed that no discussions have been held between UAW 1112 and Lordstown Motors Corp., whose CEO Steve Burns said he hopes to purchase the more than 6.2 million-square-foot Lordstown plant and begin producing electric trucks there by the end of 2020. Lordstown Motors has been in talks with GM to purchase the plant.

While Burns has said he looks to use union labor at the plant, “I guess we’ll find out when we cross that bridge,” O’Hara says. It would be good for the local, which still has members living in the area, he says, and the company would benefit from their experience.

“I’m sure they would be able to step right in and work there if they wanted to,” he says.

But O’Hara believes neither the possibility of Lordstown Motors, nor the chance of a battery cell production facility being located in Lordstown, are on the minds of the Local 1112 membership as he expects GM to possibly consolidate more of its operations next year.

“Everybody has a target on their back,” he warns.

“This could happen to any of them. There’s no such thing as job security anymore. You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does. Then you have to deal with it.”

Pictured above: UAW 1112 members Gary West, Shawn Laughlin, Mike Kudlousky and Walter Phelps picket outside the GM Lordstown Complex on Oct. 17. The strike will continue until the vote is completed Oct. 25.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.