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UAW to strike Sakthi Auto over unfair labor charge

Melissa Burden and Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers said Wednesday an unfair labor practice strike will be held beginning Monday against Sakthi Automotive Group USA, an India-based automotive supplier of safety components that recently expanded in Detroit.

The union in a release said the strike will begin at 5 a.m. at the Sakthi facility at 6401 W. Fort St.

“We are asking all UAW elected and appointed representatives for support in our upcoming ULP strike at Sakthi Automotive,” a news release says. “We also would like the support of all rank and file members, as well as retirees.”

The UAW says that in May 2015, workers at Sakthi won a National Labor Relations Board election by a “super majority” to form a union at two plants in Detroit. The union says it started negotiations with the supplier in January this year and that Sakthi “has delayed these contract talks by consistently coming to the table unprepared and empty-handed, and regularly canceling scheduled contract negotiation dates.”

The union also alleges that Sakthi has fired more than 52 bargaining unit employees since negotiations started and has filled those positions with temporary employees.

A.J. Freer, a member of UAW Local 600 overseeing the Sakthi negotiations, said a “strike will occur if we have not made any substantial progress in the negotiations.”

He accused Sakthi of stalling negotiations and not bargaining in good faith: “The company consistently comes unprepared,” he said. “The company has not fulfilled the information that we’ve requested multiple times.

“They’ve undermined the bargaining unit.”

The union was certified to represent the more than 200 workers at the Sakthi facilities in Detroit late last year.

Sakthi did not respond to multiple attempts for comment.

The UAW filed unfair labor charges in April 2015 against the company with the NLRB. That case remains open, according to the NLRB, and the union has alleged violations of coercive actions, denial of access, discharge (including layoff and refusal to hire) and coercive statements (threats and promise of benefits).

“To date, the parties have been unable to resolve this case and a trial may be necessary,” said Patrick Rorai, attorney with McKnight, Canzano, Smith, Radtke & Brault who is representing the union, in an email. “The pending strike of Sakthi by bargaining unit employees is to protest these unfair labor practices.”

Rorai said additional charge were filed on Tuesday alleging more recent violations.

A hearing on the charge is scheduled for Aug. 10.

In February, an individual also filed a separate charge that the company had violated the National Labor Relations Act over a discharge (including layoff and refusal to hire). The NLRB dismissed that charge in April because of insufficient evidence.

In October, Sakthi executives, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, delegates from Mexico and General Motors Co. executives gathered for a groundbreaking celebration for a new $30 million plant at 6921 W. Fort. At that time, the new Sakthi plant was expected to open in March and the company said it would employ 350 workers, including some ex-convicts who were returning to the workforce. The project was awarded a $3.5-million performance-based grant from state officials.

Sakthi supplies safety components for vehicle suspension systems to automakers including General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. The supplier has parts on the new Chevrolet Camaro and the new Cadillac CT6.

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319