UAW-GM workers at Cruze plant request strike notice

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

United Auto Workers leaders are determining if Ohio workers who build the Chevrolet Cruze for General Motors Co. should strike over unresolved issues with their local contracts.

UAW Region 2-B Director Ken Lortz said Local 1112 and Local 1712, which represent roughly 4,150 hourly workers at GM’s Lordstown Complex, have requested that UAW International leaders approve a five-day strike letter.

“They told me they didn’t feel management was taking the bargaining process seriously,” he told The Detroit News. “We’re going to get a deal done or we’re going to have a problem.”

Although the UAW reached a national agreement with GM in November, each of the union’s local departments negotiate their own contracts concurrently as the automakers and union work to reach a national contract. Local contracts cover individual plant rules and issues. They sometimes take years to ratify.

Lortz said representatives from his office as well as UAW-GM Vice President Cindy Estrada’s team recently joined the local officials in negotiations with the Detroit-based automaker.

If UAW International leaders believe a strike is warranted, the letter sets a hard deadline for negotiators to reach a deal or a strike could occur.

Lortz said negotiators have “made some progress” but “a number of issues” remain.

Issues, according to a Wednesday flier from Local 1112, range from job standards and restroom sanitation to several skilled trades-specific issues such as utilization and cross-training.

“These are examples of management trying to take away everything that is important to our membership and weaken this local union,” reads the document. “This will not be tolerated by your leadership.”

Lortz, whose region includes more than 400 local units, said leaders representing several other plants in Ohio and Indiana continue to work on local agreements with GM.

“We’re concentrating on three of them right now, and then we’ll concentrate on more of them,” he said, adding a tentative agreement was reached earlier this week for workers at GM’s Marion Metal Center in Indiana.

A local Ohio representative for GM deferred questions to the union.

The last local negotiations to cause a significant problem for an automaker occurred at GM’s Flint Metal Center and Delphi Flint East operations in 1998.

The local union negotiations follow a contentious year of contract negotiations for the UAW and its membership. Even though no strikes were called during national negotiations, strike notices were issued for GM, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Fiat Chrysler workers rejected their first contract offer before approving a richer second offer. And although the overall majority of workers at GM favored the deal, skilled trades workers opposed it and caused a week-long delay before union leaders declared it ratified. Ford workers narrowly passed their four-year pact by 51.4 percent.

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