Detroit — About 40 former employees at General Motors Co.’s idled assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, gathered Thursday morning at the Renaissance Center to tell local United Auto Workers leaders to vote no on an agreement that doesn’t guarantee a product for their former workplace.
“I feel betrayed,” said Anthony Naples, a 25-year GM employee from Youngstown.
About 200 local presidents and shop chairpersons concluded a meeting to review details of a proposed tentative agreement with GM. After leaders review the new four-year agreement, they will vote if it should be presented to the 49,000 GM-UAW members for ratification. They also will decide if the 32-day strike ends before the ratification vote takes place or after.
Three vans full of former employees and UAW Local 1112 members drove to Detroit from northeast Ohio and other areas where they’ve been transferred since Lordstown stopped production of the Chevrolet Cruze in March. Since then, 1,381 GM Lordstown employees have transferred to other plants.
As UAW leaders walked past them, heading to the meeting, the members in their red “Allocate Lordstown” shirts yelled: “No product, no vote.”
Naples, the Youngstown UAW member, has yet to accept a transfer to another plant. He’s scared to leave his family behind, and he was holding out hope that the plant that produced Chevrolet products for 53 years would get product again.
“For them not to give us a product after everything we have done is sad,” Naples said. “It’s tearing all of our families apart.”
Hector Colon, of Mineral Ridge, a 23-year GM employee who used to work at GM Lordstown as a skilled tradesman, said many people have house payments in the northeast Ohio area and are renting places in areas where they’ve been transferred like Bowling Green, Kentucky; Flint; Lansing; and Wentzville, Missouri.
“For the international to come in and not get something … that is unbelievable,” he said.
Dawn Williams of Warren, Ohio, worked at GM Lordstown for 11 years. She decided to go back to school to become a truck driver. She came to Detroit to let the union and GM know “the people of Lordstown matter.”
“Today it could be Lordstown next week it could be another plant,” she said.
The two sides reached a proposed tentative agreement Wednesday that is expected to deliver base-wage increases, uncapped profit-sharing and other “major gains” even as three U.S. plants are likely to be shuttered.
Two sources familiar with the situation told The Detroit News on Wednesday that the agreement is expected to include at least $9 billion in new investment, the creation of 9,000 jobs, preserved health insurance benefits without increases to out-of-pocket costs, ratification bonuses of $11,000, uncapped profit-sharing payouts, 3% base-wage increases in two of the years and 4% lump-sum bonuses in the other two years of the proposed four-year contract.
Also under the proposed deal, temporary workers — now about 7% of GM’s hourly workforce — would become permanent employees after three years, one of the sources said, answering a concern widely voiced by the UAW and many of its members. Temporary workers also would receive $4,500 ratification bonuses.
The agreement also is expected to confirm the wind-down of three plants identified last November for closure, the people said. Those plants include Lordstown Assembly in northeast Ohio, Baltimore Operations in Maryland and Warren Transmission in southeast Michigan. Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly would continue to operate, building a new electric truck.
Lordstown Assembly, however, does have a potential buyer. Lordstown Motors Corp. is a newly formed electric vehicle startup backed partly by Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group Inc., another electric vehicle startup. It wants to use the plant as its headquarters, research and manufacturing site for an electric truck it plans to call the Endurance.
GM does plan to build a battery-cell manufacturing plant as a part of a joint venture in northeast Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, home to Lordstown. The union-represented facility would be part of its promised investment in the proposed agreement, two sources familiar with the situation said, but it would not be specifically included in the union’s master agreement with GM.
Although resuming production would be a positive for GM, Emmanuel Rosner, an auto analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, said in a note Wednesday that the “most important issue for GM’s stock will be the magnitude of concessions it is making to the UAW and to what extent those could increase structural costs” and capital expenditure and potentially mitigate the savings under its $6 billion improvement plan.
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