Automakers and GM and UAW and Auto Industry and Unions and Labor and Manufacturing & Technology

Cash options floated for workers at GM stamping plant

August 13, 2010

Fliers circulating at General Motors' Indianapolis plant show that union members will be offered cash payments of $25,000 to $35,000 and an opportunity to keep a foot in the door with GM, if they agree to work for JD Norman Industries.

The outcome of a vote scheduled for Monday could decide whether the massive metal-stamping facility southwest of downtown stays open.

GM is trying to sell the plant to JD Norman Industries, based in Addison, Ill., but hasn't received much cooperation from United Auto Workers Local 23, which represents 631 workers at the plant. Union members voted 384-to-22 on May 26 not to open contract negotiations with Norman, which would pay a lower hourly wage, and—workers believed at the time—wipe out their GM retirement eligibility.

Despite the initial vote, higher-level UAW officials continued to work with JD Norman Industries and GM to come up with a proposal the rank-and-file might accept. Norman is expected to become a GM supplier.

Union members will hear about the proposed five-year contract in a meeting Sunday and vote on Monday.

Local 23 President Ray Kennedy issued a statement on Friday saying, "The reality is that everyone at this plant doesn't want to see it sold or closed." He noted that the plant has been considered a "benchmark" for GM's global standards. "We were the best, the plant that others looked to and strived to become. We have struggled through being denied tax abatements, national trade agreements, bankruptcy, and a reduced market share and remained open.

"We are now facing the most challenging circumstances most of our members have ever seen."

Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration and Mayor Greg Ballard's office also want to see the plant stay open, keeping jobs and tax revenue here. Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob said his understanding of the proposed contract was that current union members would have three options to stay with Norman or go with GM, though he wasn't sure of the details.

One of the fliers circulating on Friday outlined five options for union members, depending on their retirement eligibility and desire to transfer to other GM plants.

According to two of the options, those who retire from or quit GM but work for JD Norman for two years would receive $35,000.

Those who want to keep working for GM—and continue building toward retirement—could go into a layoff status while working for JD Norman for two years. They would receive $25,000. Those who want to transfer to another GM site immediately would remain eligible to do so, but they would get no cash.

Local 23 Bargaining Committee Chairman Greg Clark wants the union to turn down any JD Norman proposal and let GM close the plant, as it has planned to do by September 2011. That would preserve rights under the current UAW contract to transfer, receive a cash payment of $30,000, and keep current wages.

Clark said the cash that's being offered to work for JD Norman Industries doesn't make up for the wage cuts. According to one flier, production workers would make $15.50 per hour, while skilled tradesmen would earn $24 per hour.

That amounts to an $8-per-hour wage reduction for most skilled tradesmen, and half the union members are in skilled trades, Clark said.

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