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Deal to end GM strike won’t save Lordstown plant

The deal to end the month-long strike at General Motors will not save an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and two other transmission plants, according to the United Auto Workers union.

In November, GM announced plans to close Lordstown as well as transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and Baltimore, Maryland and Hamtramck, in Detroit. Under the proposed labor deal reached Wednesday, Hamtramck will get a new lease on life, with a chance to build electric trucks. But the company was offering that even before the union went on strike on Sept. 16.

“It is with sadness that, with this agreement, three of those four facilities will close,” said the union’s summary of the deal’s terms.

The union said it did win enhanced retirement and buyout packages for affected employees. It also disclosed that GM plans to close a parts distribution center outside of Los Angeles sometime during the life of this contract. It has 31 hourly workers.

During contract negotiations, the United Auto Workers union had demanded GM bring some of the trucks it builds in Mexico to the US plants.

There were more than 3,000 union jobs at the four plants when plans to close them were announced in November. GM said it found jobs for about 2,300 of the workers at the four plants, although many had to relocate.

On Thursday morning a group of workers from Lordstown were outside the meeting room where union officials were considering the proposed four year contract deal. They were chanting “No product, no vote,” to union officials as they entered the room, trying to push them one last time to demand that GM bring back a vehicle to build in Lordstown.

“It’s depressing because so many people depend on it, and so many people left the community with the thought in their mind that, you know what? Our union’s strong and our union’s going to get us back to work in Lordstown one day,” said Tommy Wolikow, a former Lordstown worker.

Wolikow is still with GM, having transferred to a GM plant in Flint, Michigan not long before the Lordstown plant stopped building cars. He said many workers from Lordstown who moved to other states to take GM jobs left their families behind, but did so with the expectation that they would be able to move back to Lordstown to be with their families again.

“To hear this news that we might not get another General Motors product, it’s just devastating,” he said.

The 32-day walkout by 50,000 GM workers centered on issues including a path to permanent work for temporary workers, pay raises or lump sum payments for UAW members and promises of investment at US plants.

GM agreed to eventually start building a new electric truck at the Hamtramck assembly plant, the company’s last remaining plant within Detroit city limits. But GM has yet to reveal a prototype of the truck, known as a concept vehicle in industry parlance.

That means construction of the truck is likely more than a year in the future. Since GM plans to halt production of the sedans it now builds at Hamtramck early next year, the plant will likely be dark for an extended period.

GM also agreed to invest in some new plants in the Lordstown area, including one that would build lithium ion batteries to power electric cars. And it is looking at a possible sale of the Lordstown plant to a company that may build electric vehicles there. But it is not clear how many jobs those plants will produce, and they are unlikely to pay what veteran autoworkers at GM now earn.

GM’s decision to close the plants sparked outrage from the union and many politicians, including President Donald Trump.

The tentative agreement needs the approval of both union leadership as well as the rank-and-file union members at GM before it can take effect. The union’s National GM Council, made up of those who represent GM workers nationwide, was meeting to consider the agreement Thursday.

Article Topic Follows: Biz/Tech

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