UAW Slaps GM With Lawsuit Over Plant Closures

Canada’s autoworker union Unifor brought out the guy from Dune to protest a General Motors plant closure, but UAW went a few steps further. The American auto union hit GM with a lawsuit Tuesday, claiming the company’s decision to shutter three plants violates its 2015 collective bargaining agreement.

However, GM may have an out.

In a statement posted this morning, UAW President Gary Jones and VP Terry Dittes said, “For UAW members in GM Warren Transmission Operations, GM Lordstown Assembly and in the GM GPS Baltimore plant in Maryland the UAW is determined to leave no stone unturned to make sure that their contractual rights are honored.

“The UAW believes that General Motors is in breach of the 2015 Collective Bargaining terms,” the two execs claimed. The UAW also provided a link to the lawsuit accusing GM of breach of contract.

Contained within that suit is a letter agreement signed by GM that states the company would “not close, idle, nor partially or wholly sell, spin-off, split-off, consolidate or otherwise dispose of in any form, any plant, asset, or business unit of any type” during the contract’s four-year term. UAW argues that the looming “unallocated” status of the three plants constitutes idling. Thus, GM broke its promise.

Image: General Motors

(Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly isn’t included in the suit, as GM announced late last week its intention to keep the plant open until January 2020.)

While it would appear that UAW has the automaker over a legal barrel, the same letter contains ammunition for GM. A caveat to the previously quoted statement states, “In making this commitment, it is understood that conditions may arise that are beyond the control of the Company, (i.e. market-related volume decline, act of God), and could make compliance with this commitment impossible.”

It will be GM’s task to prove to a judge that it needed to stop building the Chevrolet Cruze and various Michigan and Maryland components before the (Sept. 14th) expiration of its labor agreement. True, Lordstown wasn’t a busy place. The plant, which goes dark on March 8th, went from three shifts to two, and then to one, in recent years, with significant amounts of downtime — a symptom of the public’s move away from passenger cars. Demand hadn’t dropped to zero, however.

In an emailed statement to Automotive News, GM claimed it did not breach the contract.

“We continue to work with the UAW on solutions to our business challenges,” the automaker said. “We have no further comments at this time on the lawsuit filed by the UAW.”

a version of this article first appeared on TTAC