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UAW plant chairman ousted

Ed Garsten
The Detroit News

PONTIAC — Union workers at General Motors Corp.’s Pontiac Truck Assembly plant overwhelmingly voted Sunday to oust plant chairman Gene Austin following a raucous meeting at the Pontiac Silverdome in the latest in a long line of travail at UAW Local 594.

The vote came as Austin, 58, was in negotiations with GM for a local contract.

Austin, who has been Local 594 chairman for two years, lost his battle to hang onto his job when all but 21 of 1,706 Local 594 members casting ballots voted to remove him from office.

“He doesn’t do anything,“ said Stacy Way, a wood modeler from Clarkston who voted to recall Austin. “He degrades women. He thinks we belong in the back seat of the car.”

George Teamer, a body shop group leader from Pontiac, said Austin had “lost the trust of the people.” Austin wasn’t available for comment, but in an interview last month, he accused the UAW of giving up its role as an advocate for its members, knuckling under to demands by GM.

Local 594 President Suzanne Brown refused to comment directly on the recall vote but said “whatever happens, he (Austin) has the right to appeal.”

The dissatisfaction with Austin centers on charges he did not fight hard enough to quash GM’s plans to move 900 union jobs from Pontiac to its Warren technical center and that he shut out his former ally, Brown, from critical negotiations.

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