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UAW Stays On Strike While Considering GM Deal That Would Close Lordstown

Since the last Cruze rolled off the assembly line at the Lordstown plant in March. [ideastream]
Since the last Cruze rolled off the assembly line at the Lordstown plant in March. [ideastream]

The local union president says United Autoworkers officials have signed off on the proposed agreement with General Motors and the deal now will be considered by the full membership.

“That recommendation was made and it will be taken to our membership for a vote for ratification,” said Mike Caldwell of UAW Local 1005. “We'll have some meetings coming forward to let the membership look over the agreement and have question and answer sessions with them so they understand what the agreement is.”

Nearly 50,000 GM workers in 10 states, including Ohio, have been on strike since Sept. 16. Caldwell says the UAW strike is officially still ongoing until the deal is ratified. Ballots are expected to be in by Oct. 25, but no deadline has been set yet.

“We will still remain on strike,” Caldwell said. “We'll still be on the picket lines until the membership has the opportunity to review the agreement to make their decision.”

Caldwell was unable to comment on how the deal affects workers in Parma, or the contract summary, which states Lordstown will be closed and outlines assistance for those workers.

“There's a lot of other information in the agreement that has to be looked at the membership, those were just the highlights and we'll have to wait to see what their decision is,” Caldwell said. “I'm not at liberty to disclose any of that information until it's released to the members.”

The summary of the four-year contract released by Reuters says employees health expenses would remain at 3 percent and the deal also would provide a path to full-time employment for temporary workers. But plants currently on “unallocated” status in Lordstown, Baltimore and Warren, Michigan will be permanently closed.

Employees who were active in those plants as of Nov. 26, 2018 have several options, regardless of whether they had already transferred to another plant. Options include a choice between multiple retirement incentives for employees with 30 years of experience or those approaching that mark. Buyouts are also available, ranging from $7,500 to $75,000, based on seniority. Those who did not accept a transfer can also choose a one-time placement opportunity, retirement pension benefit or tuition assistance.

The UAW says the deal includes the renewal of a moratorium on plant closures, which the union says was crucial in securing these options for employees of unallocated plants, including Lordstown.

The plan for Lordstown includes a third party, known as Lordstown Motors, buying the facility and licensing electric truck technology from Cincinnati-based electric vehicle start up Workhorse. The proposal also includes a nearby facility for battery cell production. Union members and lawmakers in Ohio have expressed concern about the new company’s financial viability and question if the plan will bring a fraction of the jobs GM did to the Mahoning Valley.

GM is facilitating that deal, but does not have a financial stake in Lordstown Motors.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.