Autoworkers from closed plants fight new GM contract

DETROIT (AP) – If they can close our plant, they can close yours, too. That’s the message from workers at three shuttered General Motors (GM) factories that didn’t get new products under the tentative contract agreement reached last week between GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW), who have been on strike against the company across the United States (US) for over six weeks now.

About 2,000 employees who once worked at GM transmission plants near Baltimore and Detroit and a small-car assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, will repeat that message this week as 49,000 union members vote on the new four-year deal.

Approval could end the walkout that has crippled GM’s production and cost the company an estimated USD2 billion.

Most of the workers who lost their jobs at the three sites are scattered across the country after transferring to other GM factories, so they have a presence at just about all of the automaker’s plants.But few are holding out hope they can torpedo the contract, which comes with an USD11,000 signing bonus, pay raises and plenty of other economic goodies for the factories that are staying open.

John Sandquist Jr, who spent 25 years building cars at Lordstown near Cleveland, said he is not optimistic he will change other people’s minds, but he will vote against the pact.

“Your plant can be shut down at any time,” Sandquist said. “What the contract is lacking is the language to prevent this from happening again.”

Like many of the 1,400 workers who built the compact Chevrolet Cruze before GM stopped making the cars at Lordstown last March, Sandquist took a transfer.

He wound up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where after the strike ends he will make the new mid-engine Chevy Corvette.

He questioned why union leaders agreed to let GM close the factories, wondering if corruption inside the UAW influenced the decision to side with the company.