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Union leaders meeting with GM plant bidder

June 30, 2010

United Auto Workers official Maurice "Mo" Davison is making one last attempt to put together a deal for a Chicago-area firm to buy the General Motors stamping plant southwest of downtown Indianapolis.

Davison said he’s meeting Wednesday morning with leaders of UAW Local 23, which represents about 650 workers at the plant, as well as with officials from JD Norman Industries, which wants to buy the facility.

GM set Wednesday as the deadline for making progress on a sale agreement. It plans to close the plant on Sept. 14, 2011.

“We’re still trying to hopefully put some deal together,” said Davison, who is director of UAW Region 3, based in Indianapolis.

But the UAW needs authorization from the local union members to open contract negotiations with JD Norman to pay lower wages.

Davison hopes to sweeten the deal by getting GM to agree to incentives for the workers, which could include things like retirement payouts for older workers or lump-sum severance agreements for younger employees, who could use the money to switch careers.

“We think they’ve got the best leverage right now,” Davison said, before GM shells out the money needed to close down the plant.

If the workers OK contract talks, Davison said, he thinks he has a chance to convince GM to push back its deadline for a sale.

He said opening talks would be best for the plant workers because if they don’t like the deal that’s struck, they can vote it down and stick with the compensation they’re getting from GM—until the plant closes 15 months from now.

The four-year labor contract negotiated in 2007 contains a two-tiered system in which new employees earn about $15 an hour compared with the prevailing $29-an-hour wage for more experienced workers.

JD Norman, based in Addison, Ill., performs metal stamping at locations in the United States and Mexico for the aerospace and defense, appliance, automotive, building technologies, electrical and energy, and medical industries.

The company has acquired seven stamping plants since 2005—the last one being HSM Industries in Mexico in November.

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