Automakers and Auto Industry and Suppliers and Manufacturers

JD Norman reaching GM workers through mail

September 10, 2010

GM's Indianapolis metal-stamping plant employees are looking in their mail boxes for the latest word on a proposed contract from JD Norman Industries.

The Illinois-based manufacturer wants to acquire the massive plant from General Motors before its scheduled closure in September 2011. The most valuable part of the deal would be the large, expensive equipment inside the plant and its skilled workforce. But United Auto Workers Union Local 23, which represents the 750 or so employees at the plant,  has declined to negotiate with JD Norman.

JD Norman held a meeting on Aug. 30 at Lucas Oil Stadium to answer questions from union members, who then circulated a petition around the plant in favor of holding a vote. Those members might have their chance, as the UAW's regional office appears to be arranging a vote by mail-in ballot. Local 23 First Vice President Rodney Conger said he spoke with a regional-level official on Wednesday.

"The answer I received is it will all be explained in this letter," he said.

UAW Region 3 President Maurice "Mo" Davison did not return a phone call requesting comment. JD Norman Industries CEO Justin Norman also did not respond to a request for comment.

Conger said that word on the shop floor Friday is that a ballot will accompany a new proposal, which includes $70,000 cash for union members who work for JD Norman for two years. The cash offer is double the amount in a previous proposal.

Under their current contract, union members have the right to transfer to other GM facilities and keep their current wages and benefits. JD Norman would run the Indianapolis plant at half the current union wages, so the cash offer recognizes the pay cut that union members would have to take. Norman's offer also would allow members to work for him for two years, but still transfer to GM.

Conger said he worries that lower wages at the Indianapolis plant would start a domino effect, which would follow him to another plant. "What’s the bigger picture?" he said. "They're going after wages overall."

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