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Prospective GM plant buyer pleads case in advertisement

August 17, 2010

While local United Auto Wokers declared victory over an attempt to shift their work to a new owner, JD Norman Industries Inc. is making it clear that it hasn't given up on its plan to buy the General Motors Co. stamping plant southwest of downtown Indianapolis.

The Addison, Ill.-based company placed a full-page advertisement in Tuesday’s edition of The Indianapolis Star explaining its plan to buy the plant, which is slated for closure next year unless it can be sold.

GM is trying to sell the plant to JD Norman, but hasn't received cooperation from UAW Local 23, which represents 631 workers at the plant. Union members voted 384-22 on May 26 not to open contract negotiations with Norman. Despite the initial vote, higher-level UAW officials continued to work with JD Norman and GM to come up with a proposal the rank-and-file might accept.

Union members were expected to hear about the proposed five-year contract over the weekend, but members of Local 23 shouted down the union's international representatives at the Sunday afternoon meeting. The meeting ended abruptly, and plans to hold a vote Monday were canceled.

Union members dislike the plan because it cuts base wages from $29 per hour to $15.50. Union reps say local members would rather see the plant close in the hopes that they'll be transferred to other GM plants.

JD Norman's advertisement highlighted one option under the proposed contract that would allow union members to stay with General Motors Corp. and retain their transfer rights.

“While I understand the sentiment of those employees who would rather transfer to another GM plant, our proposal would guarantee their GM transfer rights without having to close the facility,” said the ad, which was signed by JD Norman President and CEO Justin Norman. “Why then would any employees want to see the plant close?"

UAW Local 23 member Donny Jones said it's not enough to allow some members to transfer.

“If they leave the plant open, there's no work to go to. That's the issue.”

It appears Norman can't buy the plant and use it to supply parts to GM without the UAW's approval. The UAW's current agreement prevents GM from outsourcing the work at the plant to a non-union business.

“He's welcome to buy the building, but not the business,” Jones said.

Bargaining Committee Chairman Greg Clark said he received congratulations from UAW members around the country for stopping the proposed wage cuts.

“We would have been the lead domino,” he said.

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