[UPDATE: Automotive News [sub] reports that Linc workers voted “overwhelmingly” to authorize a strike, noting
With the strike authorization, the local can send notice to LINC that workers could strike after five business days if progress isn’t made toward a contract.
Ninety-eight percent of the 88 workers who voted yesterday agreed to authorize a strike, a representative at the union hall said this morning.
We’ve been watching the drama at GM’s Lake Orion plant unfold for some time now, as an “innovative labor practices” agreement between the UAW, GM and the government has already drawn UAW protests and NLRB complaints, as well as increased backlash against the union’s two-tier wage structure. Thus far GM had been able to prevent Tier One workers from being forced into the second tier, by shuffling them off to the Flint HD pickup plant. But with GM’s truck inventory soaring to “Old GM” levels, Flint is being idled, and those “Tier One Gypsies” are once again facing the choice between moving to some other plant or accepting a 50% paycut to return to Orion. And now, another labor issue is raising its ugly head, as Crainsdetroit reports that
About 125 workers for a critical supplier [Linc Logistics] inside the General Motors Co. Orion Assembly Plant are taking a strike authorization vote today as a means of accelerating contract talks.
GM has been tooling up Orion for production of its Sonic subcompact, which replaces the Aveo, ahead of a launch this fall. But the supplier workers, who are being paid even less than the second-tier GM hourly assembly workers, may just be able to wreak havoc on The General’s launch schedule.
The Linc workers agreed, by card check, to join the United Auto Workers this spring. So far the UAW has been unable to negotiate a contract with Linc, said Pat Sweeney, president of UAW Local 5960. The local represents hourly workers at Orion and workers from the third-party parts suppliers operating there.
The union is fighting for what it calls a “living wage” for Linc workers, who currently earn less than $10 an hour, the UAW’s Sweeney said. The straight-time annual wages for a worker earning $10 an hour is $20,800, less than the federal poverty line for a family of four.
Sweeney said a strike authorization would give the UAW the option to strike after a short waiting period, although the union wants to resolve the issue without a work stoppage. He said the number of Linc employees at Orion could double by the time the plant reaches full production.
Not only does the Linc workers’ move towards a strike vote inflame GM’s hottest labor trouble spot, but the “innovative labor practices” at Orion also mean the workers there are more likely to take a stand with their recently-unionized supplier bretheren.
GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said the automaker does not expect the strike authorization vote and UAW’s negotiations with Linc to affect the Sonic launch.
But it’s unclear how many UAW workers at the assembly plant would be willing to cross a picket line if a strike is called…
Orion has about 800 traditional workers, 500 of the entry-level workers and 200 people employed by the parts suppliers. Other GM plants have only a handful of entry-level workers, if any.
With the market moving towards smaller cars, GM had better hope that the Linc dispute doesn’t snowball into a wider disruption at Orion, but the high percentage of lower wage workers, and the plant’s history of rancorous labor relations make conflict highly likely. And based on GM North American boss Mark Reuss’s comments on the matter, it appears that The General’s management is in denial about just how charged the Orion workplace is [Ed: Do you work at Orion Township? TTAC wants to hear from you. Please drop us a line at our contact form]. We’ll be watching this latest flare-up closely to see if it touches off the powderkeg that the bailout-era “innovative labor practices” set to smoldering.