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GM workers reject concessions; Indianapolis plant in jeopardy

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GM workers reject concessions; Indianapolis plant in jeopardy

David Barkholz

Automotive News -- September 24, 2010 - 12:02 pm ET

UAW-represented workers at General Motors Co.'s Indianapolis stamping plant on Thursday voted down a proposed 50 percent pay cut that was sought by a potential new owner of the plant, a union official said.

The rejection of the concessions puts the future of the plant in jeopardy -- GM already has announced plans to close the operation unless it is sold.

UAW Local 23 shop chair Gregory Clark said today 416 hourly workers out of about 625 eligible union members traveled to the union hall to cast their no votes before a video camera.

The ratification officially was by mail-in vote, Clark said. But members wanted video evidence of their vote to ensure the accuracy of the count, he said. The entire process, including the delivery of the ballots from the union hall to the U.S. Post Office, was videotaped.

The workers rejected a tentative agreement negotiated by the UAW International with J.D. Norman Industries, an Illinois stamping company that said it would buy the massive plant and keep it open if the concessions were ratified.

Reached by phone Thursday, UAW Region 3 Director Mo Davison said the deal was fair to workers and would protect their rights to transfer to other GM plants if they so desired.

The official vote count is scheduled for Monday. Davison said if the deal was rejected, GM could begin moving tools out of the plant right away and have it closed by next summer.

GM spokesman Chris Lee said it would be premature to comment until the official balloting is completed Monday.

Clark said workers weren't worried about those prospects. One third of the plant's 625 employees are eligible to retire any time and most believe they will have opportunities to transfer to other GM plants nationally, he said.

Workers preferred to take their chances, he said, than take a pay cut that would have provided a straight-time annual salary below $30,000. That compensation would easily qualify a family of four for food stamps in Indiana, he said.

The contract proposal also included a "buydown" provision that would have paid production workers a total of $25,000 over two years to help compensate for the lost hourly wage.

Davison said transferring to another GM plant might not be easy given that 3,600 GM employees are now on layoff. But Clark said the Indianapolis workers and those GM workers on layoff would have first crack at GM factory jobs now held by about 4,000 temporaries, should GM decide to make those positions permanent.

The contract dispute at Indianapolis has been controversial. In May, UAW-represented workers voted overwhelming not to open concessionary contract talks with J.D. Norman.

Despite that, the UAW International took up the negotiations. That drew protests from Clark and the membership that the International had overstepped its authority under the UAW Constitution. Davison dismissed those charges.

Anger reached a zenith in August when a UAW International official was booed out of the union hall after he tried to explain provisions of the new agreement. The chaos was captured on camera and put up on YouTube.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100924/OEM/100929902/1424#ixzz10URcKmwa

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By Drew Johnson

The future of General Motors’ Indianapolis stamping plant was put into question on Friday after UAW members voted down a measure that would have reduced pay by 50 percent but would have cleared the way for a new plant owner.

GM previously announced it would close the Indiana plant if it couldn’t find a buyer, with today’s news seemingly sealing that fate. J.D. Norman Industries, an Illinois-based stamping company, was seeking to purchase the plan, but required a 50 percent pay cut by the plant’s UAW workers.

Although the official results of the vote have yet to be revealed, UAW Local 23 shop chair Gregory Clark says the measure was defeat. The official results will be revealed on Monday.

Despite the likely future of the plant, Clark says that the plant’s workers aren’t panicking. About a third of the plant’s UAW workers are eligible for retirement, with the remaining employees optimistic about transferring to another GM production facility.



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Workers' vote over GM Indianapolis plant concludes today

Compiled by Ted Evanoff

Indianapolis Star

Most workers at General Motors’ Indianapolis stamping plant have already voted on the question of pay and benefit cuts and voting by ballot will conclude today.

JD Norman Industries of Addison, Ill., asked the 650 workers for concessions as a condition for buying the plant from GM, which says the plant will close in 2011 if no

sale takes place.

UAW Local 23 issued a statement last week saying it delivered 412 ballots cast by members to the U.S. Postal Service.

Local 23 insisted on collecting and filming the ballots as part of a larger controversy

with the United Auto Workers union in Detroit and GM.

The huge plant, owned by GM since 1930, occupies a site on the White River near

downtown where manufacturing has been continuous since the 1880s wagon-making


Read more: Workers' vote over GM Indianapolis plant concludes today | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20100927/BUSINESS01/100927020/1210/business01/Workers-vote-at-GM-Indy-plant-ends-today#ixzz10mOmhaPW

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GM's Indy plant caught in UAW pay battle

Many members vote no on wage cut plan, risk plant closure

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

Indianapolis -- A General Motors Co. stamping plant here has become a battleground pitting rank-and-file UAW members against top union officials over whether autoworkers should accept pay cuts to save jobs and keep factories open.

JD Norman Industries Inc. of Addison, Ill., wants to buy and continue operating the Indianapolis Metal Center, which is to close in October 2011 as a result of GM's 2009 bankruptcy. But plant workers would have to accept a 50 percent pay cut to $15.50 an hour, from $29, in a deal negotiated by regional and national leaders of the United Auto Workers.

Everyone from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to UAW officials in Detroit urged the approximately 650 workers at the plant to approve the agreement.

But many of the employees represented by UAW Local 23 -- who for months panned the deal and last Thursday sported "No" buttons as they entered the union hall to cast ballots in a special mail-in vote -- would prefer to close the plant. That would allow them to keep their option to transfer to another GM factory when jobs are available and maintain their current pay level.

Local 23 dissidents said Monday that they had enough votes to defeat the labor pact; official results are expected to be announced as early as today.

The drama in Indianapolis highlights how UAW pay rules and politics could complicate the efforts of Liquidation Motors Co. -- the "old" GM -- to sell 16 factories and other assets the "new" GM left behind in bankruptcy.

"No one wants the Indianapolis situation to set precedent, but it has that potential," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank in Ann Arbor.

"For the (UAW leaders), they understand the competitive wage in the industry is in the $14- to $15-an-hour range. Any potential buyer of a plant in bankruptcy knows that."

Dissidents rally against pact

Dissident workers disagree.

"A lot of people are trying to intimidate us and now they are saying we are trying to intimidate them, but the only real issue is the UAW International is allowing our contract to be violated," said DeShawn Beyers, 35, who works at the stamping plant.

Beyers was one of 412 workers that Local 23 officials said filed through the union hall last Thursday to protest the special election. Local 23 leaders urged their members to vote in person to support their negotiated right to transfer and keep their higher pay.

Maurice Davison, director of UAW Region 3, which includes Indianapolis, has argued the pay cuts and other proposals would help the factory survive and possibly thrive, predicting the deal could help the number of jobs eventually triple to 2,000. Davison was not available for comment.

JD Norman's plan calls for the plant to continue making hoods, fenders and other metal pieces for GM, as well as bring in new orders from other automakers.

Many Indiana elected officials support JD Norman's bid, which would keep alive a plant that opened in 1930 and employed several thousand workers at its peak. The 2.1-million-square-foot factory generates about $1.8 million annually in property tax revenue for Marion County, making it one of the largest sources of tax revenue for the county and Indianapolis.

"It does not just keep open that plant for the current workers, but keeps it open for future workers," said Blair West, spokeswoman for Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitchell Roob, who has lobbied for approval of the labor agreement.

Owner Justin Norman declined press interviews for more than a month. But he published an open letter to Local 23 members in area newspapers, and hosted an informational meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.

In the letter, Norman explained that he wants to keep the plant and its work force to maintain labor continuity.

In addition to the pay cut for production workers, the wage for skilled trades employees would be pared to $24 an hour, from about $33.

Norman is offering GM workers who want to transfer the ability to do so for up to two years. Those who stay would retain GM seniority plus a cash bonus as high as $35,000 for accepting the pay cut.

This deal, he argues, respects workers' transfer rights while avoiding a plant shutdown.

"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 a facility," Norman wrote in the Aug. 17 letter. "Why then would any employees want to see the plant close?"

As important, if the plant closes, its massive machinery would be removed. That would make it expensive to reopen as an auto factory because it would require the installation of new equipment.

Old GM plants

The Indianapolis stamping plant is one of many sites owned by the old GM that are scattered across 14 states and 127 different locations. Most require intense environmental clean up after decades of production.

A few factories have been sold. One is a Pontiac site that's going to become a film studio. Fisker Automotive, an Irvine, Calif.-based maker of luxury hybrid vehicles, bought GM's former Wilmington, Del., plant and may create 2,000 jobs. Tesla Motors Inc., an upscale California electric car maker, bought the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, Calif., which was a joint venture of GM and Toyota Motor Corp., and may hire up to 1,000 workers.

Many others facilities remain unsold, however. Copper thieves have stolen more than $1 million worth of metal from GM's Buick City plant in Flint. A St. Louis firm is in negotiations to buy a former West Mifflin, Pa., plant and market the site as a renewable energy facility.

The Indianapolis situation could foreshadow the problem of trying to sell GM factories that employ a lot of veteran GM workers, said Gary Chaison, a labor expert at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

Cutting pay is not popular, even if it saves job. It took two votes before 2,200 parts workers at UAW Local 699 near Saginaw approved pay cuts negotiated by senior UAW officials in late June.

A major issue for many delegates at the UAW's constitutional convention in mid-June, where UAW President Bob King was elected to replace the retiring Ron Gettelfinger, was how to restore reductions in pay and fringe benefits.

The situation at Local 23 underscores that the downsizing of the auto industry "remains traumatic for any community that has to deal with the issue," said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who closely follows the UAW.

"The (UAW) International and the community want to preserve as many manufacturing jobs as possible, and the workers want to protect their current status," he said.

At least a dozen workers told The Detroit News they intended to reject the deal.

"I want this plant to stay open. I want to keep working here, but the International has to respect our contract," line worker Jim Collins, 53, said as he waited in line to hand in his mail-in ballot.

UAW member Stanley Ames, who works at another facility, was here to give moral support.

"What part of 'no' do they not understand," Ames said.

If the labor deal is rejected again, it's unclear whether JD Norman still will pursue buying the plant. Whatever happens in Indianapolis, though, the issue is not likely to go away.

Said Shaiken: "I doubt this is the last time we will see this situation."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100928/AUTO01/9280369/1148/auto01/GM-s-Indy-plant-caught-in-UAW-pay-battle#ixzz10pQodFSw

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Indiana General Motors workers reject concessions



General Motors autoworkers have rejected the contract offer from JD Norman Industries to continue operating an Indianapolis stamping plant, said Maurice Davison, a UAW official in Indianapolis.

UAW Local 23 officials told members Monday that Local 23 officials were on hand to see the ballots being counted at a hotel room.

According to autoworkers, Local 23 reported that 457 ballots were cast against concessions Norman Industries requested.

The rejection means that GM will proceed with plans to remove machinery and close the plant in 2011, Davison said.

Norman Industries, Local 23 and UAW Region 3 officials were not available for comment.

"The contract was turned down," said worker Bob Speece.

The plant employs 650 workers.

Read more: Indiana General Motors workers reject concessions | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20100928/BUSINESS0101/9280341/1331/business01/Indiana-General-Motors-workers-reject-concessions#ixzz10pSSKT8u

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GM prepares to shut Indianapolis plant after workers reject concessions

David Barkholz

Automotive News -- September 28, 2010 - 12:12 pm ET

General Motors Co. has started the wind-down of its Indianapolis stamping plant after UAW-represented workers yesterday overwhelmingly rejected a proposed 50 percent pay cut that was sought by a potential new owner of the plant.

GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said GM has ended its search for a potential buyer.

“We are disappointed that UAW Local 23 was not able to ratify the proposed labor agreement,” Carpenter said in an e-mail.

“As previously announced, we will continue steps to wind down the facility, which will cease production in mid-2011 and close by December 2011.”

Gregory Clark, UAW Local 23 shop chairman, said last week that the cuts were too deep and the plant's 650 workers would take their chances transferring to another GM plant should jobs open. He said about one-third of the hourly work force is eligible to retire.

Clark was critical of the intervention by the UAW International into the issue. In May, the workers overwhelmingly said they did not want to initiate concession talks with the potential new owner, stamper J.D. Norman Industries.

Despite that, the UAW International picked up negotiations and tried to sell the workers on the merits of the new contract. The vote yesterday was 457 no to 96 voting in favor.

The contract proposed to cut production wages from $28 an hour to $14 an hour. A 14-an-hour wage equates to straight-time annual compensation of less than $30,000.

The proposed contract also contained a “buydown” provision that would have paid workers a total of $25,000 over two years to compensate them partially for the wage and benefit cuts.

Clark said the massive plant makes large stampings, such as hoods, doors and fenders, for several GM cars.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100928/OEM/100929849/1424#ixzz10rbDiTZw

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GM Indy plant deal fails

Sale to save factory collapses after union rejects concessions

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

A months-long battle to save a General Motors Co. stamping plant in Indianapolis ended bitterly, with UAW Local 23 members voting 456-96 against a deal to sell the factory and accept pay cuts negotiated by regional and national union leaders.

Addison, Ill.-based JD Norman Industries said Tuesday it is dropping its effort to buy the factory, which means the 80-year-old plant will close next year.

Workers interviewed by The Detroit News last week said they were voting to reject the proposed five-year agreement because they didn't want to lose their right to transfer to another factory when openings occur and keep their current pay levels. Local 23 leaders held a rally Saturday outside the UAW Region 3 office, which includes Indianapolis, to protest the concessions.

"This whole process has been corrupted by the international (union)," said Jeff Klingerman, 56, an Indianapolis tool-and-die maker.

JD Norman's plan called for continuing to make fenders, hoods and other metal pieces for GM, as well as seek business from other automakers. Employees refused to accept an almost 50 percent pay cut to $15.50 an hour, from $29, for production workers and a 27 percent wage reduction to $24, from $33, for skilled trades workers.

Under the plan, GM workers could transfer and keep their pay levels the same for up to two years. Indianapolis employees who worked for Norman would keep their GM seniority and get a cash bonus as high as $35,000 for accepting the pay cut.

"Clearly, we are disappointed in the final outcome," JD Norman Industries owner Justin Norman said in an e-mail statement. "While we are withdrawing from pursuing the plant any further, we continue to hold the employees at the facility in the highest regard and wish them the best in their respective futures."

At least one state politician has charged that the vote also means more layoffs at other Indiana auto suppliers, such as steel supplier Nucor.

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob told the Indianapolis Business Journal Tuesday that GM Indy workers have "turned their backs on the next generation of employees."

"It's bad for Indiana, it's really bad for Indianapolis, and the ... workers there walk away with no harm," Roob added.

Maurice Davison, director of UAW Region 3, has argued the concessions would save jobs and the number of employees could eventually triple to 2,000. The pay levels would be competitive with second-tier wages at other GM facilities, he has said.

The supplier wanted to buy and continue operating the Indianapolis Metal Center, which is scheduled to close in October 2011 as a result of GM's 2009 bankruptcy.

But most UAW Local 23 members -- who for months panned the deal -- preferred to close the plant and maintain their cpay levels.

The Indianapolis vote could complicate the ability of Liquidation Motors Co. -- the "old" GM -- to sell 16 factories and other assets the "new" GM left behind in bankruptcy. One auto and one labor analyst each said the Indianapolis vote has the potential to resonate at other plants.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100929/AUTO01/9290337/1148/auto01/GM-Indy-plant-deal-fails#ixzz10vDiT2c1

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