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JD Norman boss stumps for UAW to reconsider contract

August 18, 2010

General Motors may start moving large, expensive dies out of its Indianapolis metal stamping plant within the week, and Justin Norman wants to close a deal for the plant before it's too late.

"Once the business starts moving, there's no turning around," Norman said on Wednesday afternoon.

Norman, owner of Illinois-based JD Norman Industries, came to Indianapolis to make a personal plea for United Auto Workers Local 23 to allow a vote on his proposed five-year contract. If the contract is approved, Norman would be able to acquire the plant, as well as the book of business from GM. Norman said he hopes to grow beyond that business, as production volumes rise across the automotive industry. 

Norman also talked about his commitment to becoming a U.S.-based manufacturer. He noted that 40 percent of GM's local workers are skilled tradespeople. "Skilled trades are core to our company," he said.

Norman also said he wants to retain 100 percent of the salaried and hourly workforce. He said there are about 90 salaried employees, and 661 hourly. (Some of those hourly workers are temps.)

Norman admitted he hoped media coverage of his press conference would bring pressure on UAW officials to hold a vote, which he believes was prevented by a "vocal minority."

The UAW's regional and national-level representatives had arranged for an informational meeting at the Drover Street union hall Sunday. Local members packed the house and shouted down the UAW presenters. A vote scheduled for Monday was canceled.

Many 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.

But Norman said he senses strong support for his offer.

"Based upon the outpouring of phone calls that I personally have received from plant employees, I believe there is a sincere desire to listen to our offer," Norman said. "The employees of the facility deserve an opportunity to be educated on our proposal."

Norman said he's optimistic he can close the deal, which has been in the works since spring. "The whole transaction was structured and lined up. The fact that we were at the goal line ready to close gives me encouragement."

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