UAW vows fight ahead of GM Warren Transmission plant closing

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Danielle Murry had just purchased her first house when General Motors Co. announced plans to "unallocate" four plants in the U.S., including the factory she's worked at for the last six years: Warren Transmission.

Murry, 44, has been with GM for 19 years and she's been through layoffs before, but at no time had a plant where she worked been "unallocated."

UAW Local 909 member Danielle Murry of Harper Woods, who has 19 years with General Motors, talks about the closing of GM's Warren Transmission  plant.

 "My American dream... the rug was just pulled right from under me," she told reporters at a Tuesday press conference at the United Auto Workers Local 909 union hall ahead of the plant's shuttering this week.

Earlier in the day, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez joined U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee in calling out President Donald Trump for what they said were broken promises to Michigan workers.

The issue of the unallocated plants will be an issue during contract negotiations between GM and the UAW. Officials at the labor union said Tuesday they will fight for product at idled plants like Warren Transmission and the GM Lordstown Assembly Plant.

The last production six-speed transmission for the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala rolled off the line last Friday. This week, workers have been doing maintenance and some service parts work before the plant's doors shut after Thursday's shift. About 260 hourly workers are affected.

"General Motors could have invested here," Local 909 UAW President Ghana Goodwin-Dye said. "We have a building of 2.7 million-square-feet, but they chose in this great economy to ship their business to Mexico and China. We have been trying to get new work here for quite some time."

GM does build transmissions in Mexico, but the company notes that it has 46,000 U.S. hourly employees in the U.S. compared with 16,000 in Mexico. There are 33 U.S. manufacturing sites and four in Mexico. 

GM released a statement to The Detroit News: “The six-speed transmission was a good product and was built with tremendous pride by the Warren team. We know this is an emotional time for our Warren Transmission team members. We appreciate their commitment and hard work to build the highest quality possible into each and every transmission produced at Warren Transmission Operations. Our focus remains on the employees and the impacted communities.” 

The automaker said it has an adequate supply of the transmissions to last until production of the Impala and XTS ends at the Oshawa, Ontario plant at the end of October — and production of the Impala ends at the Detroit-Hamtramck ends in early January.  After that, the Warren-produced 6-speed will no longer be used in the company’s vehicle. 

GM's Warren Transmission plant will shut its doors after Thursday.

Detroit-Hamtramck is on the list to be idled by January 2020. Oshawa was also on the list, but in May, General Motors Canada and Unifor announced they came to a "transformation agreement" to transition the assembly plant to a parts manufacturing and advanced vehicle testing plant.

During a Tuesday morning press conference that took place across the street from the plant, Democratic committee chairman Perez and Rep. Kildee (a Democrat from Flint Township) homed in on how Trump said he would bring back manufacturing jobs to Michigan. Instead, they said, plants like Warren Transmission are closing. 

“It is so unfortunate that in a couple of short days, barring something unforeseen, that we will see people across the street losing their jobs,” Perez said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. That is unfortunate. That’s why we are fighting for everyone here in Michigan and across America.” 

Perez hit on how under President Barack Obama the auto industry and its workers were saved in the 2009 bailout of GM and Chrysler. “That enabled the auto industry to get back on its feet... to save them from being destitute,” Perez said. “That’s what Democrats did.” 

But under Trump, Perez said, blue-collar workers across Michigan and Ohio have been gifted “broken promises” that their jobs would remain and more jobs would become available.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, left, is joined by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee during a press conference Tuesday across from GM's Warren Transmission plant.

The automaker refers to the impact of the de-allocation as a job transfer and not a job reduction. GM’s announcement of unallocated plants in the U.S. affected 2,800 workers overall; so far 1,700 have accepted transfers to other GM plants, the automaker said.

As of late last week, about 60 of the 260 workers at Warren Transmission had accepted transfers or have already transferred to other GM plants including those in Flint and Toledo. Another 25 will retire.

Ahead of this week's shuttering of the GM's Warren Transmission plant, UAW Local 909 member Regina Duley, center, of Oak Park, address the media as she holds up her hands and says, "These are working hands."

Murry is still unsure of what she'll do. She has put in requests to transfer to plants in Michigan, but hasn't received a transfer notice yet from GM. If she received a transfer to the Flint Assembly plant where GM builds heavy-duty trucks, it would take more than an hour to drive there.

"I would be happy that I have a job and I could still support myself, but I wouldn't be happy with that," she said. "I would like to see them create jobs here. It's obvious there's work that can be done. They are just shifting it to other places."

Moving outside of Michigan concerns her because she has to bring along her mother who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and needs to consistently have medication.

"The fact that I might have to jump up and move to Texas or Bowling Green with her, I don't know where she's going to get that care from," she said.