Union Official: UAW Bent Over Backwards for GM to Keep Lordstown Open, and for What?

The last Chevrolet Cruze rolled out of Lordstown Assembly earlier this month, with the 53-year-old plant going dark two days later. Some laid-off workers are staying put, waiting to see if September contract talks hold any promise of a future in Lordstown.

While General Motors admits the United Auto Workers was willing to do its part to save the Lordstown Assembly Plant, details of that pact remained unknown. Now, a union official has shed light on some of the concessions the UAW agreed to.

 
Declining sales of the plant’s sole product spelled the end for the model, and potentially the plant itself. Still, UAW officials felt there was hope for its continued operation, Concessions agreed to by the UAW and a new product would have given the facility a new lease on life, one official claims.

“Everything they asked us to do, we did,” said Dan Morgan, shop chairman of Local 1112 and chief negotiator of the agreement, in an interview with Bloomberg.

In 2017, after GM cut Lordstown’s third shift amid falling sedan sales, UAW officials met with GM brass over the course of three months, eventually hatching out a plan to make Cruze production more profitable. According to Morgan, the union agreed to concessions contained within a “Super Competitive Operating Agreement” — an even more aggressive pact than the one put into action at GM’s low-profit Orion plant.

“We knew we were making small cars,” Morgan said. “We wanted to know what we had to do to stay in the game.”

GM reportedly told the union officials that a more competitive labor agreement could help the plant gain a new product. Perhaps a Mexican-made product would come stateside, some members hoped. The agreement, signed in July 2017 and put into effect in 2018 “allowed GM to bring in contractors, temps and other lower-wage staff to work in the plant,” Bloomberg reports, with the concessions amounting to $118 million a year. Not surprisingly, it proved unpopular with members.

Another part of the deal was the merging of UAW Locals 1112 and 1714 for cost-saving reasons. For its part, GM agreed to amp up the Cruze’s marketing and offer deals on certain options — moves that never happened, Morgan claims.

Cruze sales continued to decline, with Lordstown losing its second shift in June of 2018. Still, by October of last year, Morgan said the Cruze was profitable, which made GM’s November restructuring announcement all the more surprising.

While GM spokesman Dan Flores admits the UAW made concessions, ultimately, “We didn’t discontinue the Cruze because of something the local union did or didn’t do,” he said. “It was a market-driven decision to discontinue the Cruze, and there were no products to allocate to Lordstown.”

As laid-off workers ponder whether to uproot their lives and take positions offered at other plants scattered across the Midwest, some worry waiting for Lordstown Assembly’s potential salvation will leave them last in line — and out of luck.

a version of this article first appeared on TTAC

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