UAW Sues General Motors Over Temporary Workforce

Last week a lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Youngstown claiming that General Motors is in violation of a “memorandum of understanding” with the United Automobile Workers by allowing temporary employees to support the launch of some new product from Fort Wayne Assembly Plant. The facility, which is responsible for manufacturing the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, is alleged to have brought on temporary workers from May to August of 2018 instead of using its laid-off full-time workers. The UAW claims this is decision represents a breach of contract.

The union says there are nearly 700 workers laid off from the “nearby” Lordstown, Ohio Assembly Plant — many of whom have applied to transfer to the Fort Wayne as is their right under the current contract with GM.

According to the lawsuit, GM continued the use the temporary workers even though the union rejected its request to extend temporary employment until the end of this coming February. However, the UAW said it did offer to allow the temps to work until the end of December, so long as GM could agree to submit a plan to eliminate the temporary group by then and transfer senior union members over to the facility in Fort Wayne.

“There are approximately 1,000 employees with contractual seniority rights currently on layoff nationwide who have Appendix A rights, including 690 seniority employees laid off at Lordstown Assembly, many of whom have applied to transfer to openings at Fort Wayne Assembly,” the lawsuit contends. “The Company, however, is circumventing the parties’ agreement on employee placement by employing temporary employees at Fort Wayne Assembly rather than transferring laid-off seniority employees under the provisions of Appendix A – Memorandum of Understanding Employee Placement.”

The lawsuit was filed on January 2nd and General Motors has had sufficient time to respond since then.

“Late last year, GM started the process to bring about 50 Lordstown employees to Ft. Wayne to fill some of the positions that had been covered by temporary employees,” the automaker told Michigan Radio in a statement on January 3rd. “In fact, about 35 Lordstown UAW members will be in place by the end of January. We have ongoing discussions with the UAW regarding our staffing needs in Ft. Wayne, but have no further comments on the lawsuit.”

Alleging a breach of contract, the UAW is requesting the court to force General Motors to stop using the temps in Fort Wayne and transfer union members to the plant. General Motors has already removed two shifts at its Lordstown facility and announced last year that it would stop making the Chevy Cruze at the plant in March. There has been no plans to replace the Cruze with another model, likely resulting in the factory being shuttered for the foreseeable future.

Our best guess is that GM knew it had to make an unpopular decision and would be involved with a prolonged fracas with the UAW as its deeply loathed restructuring plan warmed up anyway. Fort Wayne is nearly four hours away from Lordstown, resulting in a few troublesome and costly transfers for jobs that could have been sourced locally. That’s not going to help those that have already been laid off but that doesn’t seem to be an issue GM is all that interested in solving at this stage of its cost-cutting measures. Though, again, we’re just spitballing here.

a version of this article first appeared on TTAC

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