By on February 9, 2010

As GM tools up for production of its Volt extended-range electric car, Automotive News [sub] has noticed something interesting: workers at GM’s new battery pack assembly plant are not represented by the United Auto Workers. Located in the heart of UAW territory (Brownstown Township, MI), the Volt battery plant represents the very jobs that local politicians and GM leadership hailed as the green future of the auto industry. When the plant opened, GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre waxed eloquent about the opportunities:

The development of electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt is creating entire new sectors in the auto industry – an “ecosystem” of battery developers and recyclers, builders of home and commercial charging stations, electric motor suppliers and much more. These companies and universities are creating new jobs in Michigan and across the U.S. – green jobs – and they’re doing it by developing new technology, establishing new manufacturing capability, and strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness.

As long as they do so without UAW representation, apparently. Needless to say, if GM can get away with using non-union workers at a crucial plant that’s supposed to represent the firm’s future, things aren’t looking so good for our friends in organized labor.

And though GM only has 25 workers currently working the Brownstown plant, that number will increase, and the symbolism is far more important than pure numbers. The plant is part of a new wholly-owned subsidiary called GM Subsystems Manufacturing LLC, and GM spokesfolks confirm that non-union labor was an important factor in maintaining competitive manufacturing costs.

Though electric motor production at Maryland’s White Marsh plant will be a union shop, GM’s biggest supplier Delphi is also taking measures to keep its EV component factory in Kokomo, IN, free from union representation (in line with its new union-free mantra). Kokomo Local 292’s president calls the decision a “smack in the face” for the union, which is facing a decades-long slide in membership. The former DuPont plant will supply electric drives to Allison Transmission for use in medium-duty trucks and buses, and will eventually see its non-union workforce grow to 190.

Meanwhile, five Delphi plants that were transferred to GM during the supplier’s bankruptcy are being pressured to break their master agreements so they can compete amongst each other for work. In fairness though, UAW leadership doesn’t seem to be doing much to improve the situation for workers.

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19 Comments on “GM and Delphi Ditching UAW For New “Green” Production Jobs...”

  • avatar

    So even with these new, non-union shops popping up, how does GM completely escape the clutches of the UAW when they hold the majority of GM’s U.S. manufacturing jobs right now? How do you remove the UAW fom shops that they’re already strong in?

  • avatar

    Edward, Just a nit: Brownstone sb Brownstown.

  • avatar

    “Things aren’t looking so good for our friends in organized labor.”

    And yet, this news from last week:

    “Union membership in the United States rose last year by the largest amount in a quarter-century, a gain of 428,000 members, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Wednesday.”

    So maybe it’s not the UAW that’s growing, but some workers are feeling the love.

    And how does this fit with the claims that the Obama admin saved GM and Chrysler purely as a gimme to the UAW for getting him elected?

    • 0 avatar

      Before you post read the entire article, don’t cherry-pick for data to prove your point. The only sector in which unions increased their numbers was public employees. The manufacturing sector unions lost membership again. Oops.

    • 0 avatar

      I did read the article, and irrespective of the employment sector, union membership is growing, which supports the notion that, in fact, things are not looking bad for organized labor. The simple fact is that jobs in the US are moving from manufacturing to service, and interest in unionization is moving with it. That’s not cherry picking, it’s looking at the big picture.

    • 0 avatar

      When those in the ‘service’ sector run out of other people’s (ironocally, mostly from the manufacturers’ taxes) money to pay their salaries we’ll see the big picture getting dimmer and smaller…

    • 0 avatar

      “The simple fact is that jobs in the US are moving from manufacturing to service, and interest in unionization is moving with it. That’s not cherry picking, it’s looking at the big picture.”

      Except that unionization isn’t growing in the private service sector. The only area where it’s growing is public employees. So unless you’re arguing that the “big picture” is that the USA is becoming socialist, it’s not good news for unions.

      So long as public servants remain a minority of overall jobs, I don’t think having “union members” equivalent to “government worker” would be positive for unions in the long run.

  • avatar

    If GM is serious about getting rid of the uaw that would be a first step in winning me back. Notice I said uaw not union. There are some resonable unions.

  • avatar

    In the last CBA the UAW screwed its future members to protect its current, as the old retire are bought out and the new ones come in, they are not going to see the benefits of being a member (no pension, no job banks, much lower salaries, always at the bottom of the food change). This is when the real change will occur, these workers will find thier best interest in line with the companies interest, not the union.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah you got it right. That is exatly what went down. It was a battle that coudn’t be won. It was a simple solution to a complex problem.

      The CAW tells us “we didn’t sell you guys down the river, and agree to two tiered wages like the nasty UAW did” and we didn’t. We just allowed outside vendors in to do “our” traditional work. Sweepers,truck drivers,and now sequencing,and sub assembly. Hey we even let them use our empty truck plant to set up.

      The good news is,they pay $14 bucks an hour,and not only that they belong to the CAW.

      Boy I am ever glad we didn’t eat two tiered wages.

      Solidarity forever eh?

    • 0 avatar

      “The good news is,they pay $14 bucks an hour,and not only that they belong to the CAW.

      Boy I am ever glad we didn’t eat two tiered wages.”

      I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not. The UAW members definitely *don’t* want the new, low-paid employees to be part of the union. If they were, then they would be able to vote in the union, and after a number of years kill the two-tiered wages and the higher wages of the old guard UAW members. The UAW owns the company now; what incentive do they have to be nice to these new employees and let them in the club, when that could threaten not only their high wages but also their profits as owners?

      Don’t give me that crap about solidarity for all workers. The UAW didn’t care about non-UAW workers 30 to 50 years ago when Michigan was the richest state, and the Southern states were poor. No, they were happy to pass on higher costs to people buying cars, and just enjoyed their own high wages.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    It’s Brownstown Township, not Brownstone… ya’ dang flatlander ;)


    The UAW is still being forced to sign these new local agreements, as they’ve been doing for some years now. But just you wait, Government Motors will fix this, given time. Those plants will be fully organized, and Toyota will be punished for their apostasy.

    Problem is, Governent Motors will be forced to sell eventually, and the sale will be congingent on Government Motors absorbing old commitments, so they better not allow any foolishness to get baked into those new operations. Following that sale, I expect the UAW’s influence to go back on its historical decline.

  • avatar

    I’m sure that when the UAW discovers this discrepancy they’ll send some ‘representatives’ over to the battery pack plant and make sure those non-union types get religion.

    • 0 avatar

      I can see it now…Eh, youse guys want to play ball with us? We even brought our own bats.

      With all due respect panzerfaust,that aproach is been put to rest somewhere beside Jimmy Hoffa.

      You can bet the UAW knows all about it. GM and the UAW worked it out,long before the plant even opened its doors. Read my reply to RNC above. For 25 workers/union dues its not worth the paperwork. When the numbers start climbing,see how fast it becomes UAW.

      Want another prediction? Within two years Toyota will go UAW.

  • avatar

    Don’t think it will ever happen, unions power over the D3 came when all of the little things that they gave in on in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s finally brought it to a point that a prolonged strike would cripple the company (GM) and for decades, basically whatever GM agreed to, Ford and Chry. had to as well. Toyota has never ceded those things, like boeing and like boeing, when the time comes, they will just pack up and move, there will always be depressed areas where the workers will disqualify the union (if they exist) for work (see SC and boeing) and underutilized factories. Problem is, for the life of me, I can’t understand why certain states don’t pass right to work laws, so we could actually find out how much support the unions really have in certain areas and how much that would impact companies decisions on where to manufacture.

    • 0 avatar

      OK How about this thought. Toyota management has left the UAW standing on thier door step for a long time. So what’s to stop Toyota from opening the door and inviting them in?

      Magna did it here in Canada,just add a no strike clause to the agreement. The cash/union dues, starved UAW will agree to anthing right now.

      Now if your one of those that believe Toyotas recent problems,stem from the admimistration,looking after thier union buddies {I’m not one of them}… Going UAW might not be so bad eh?

  • avatar

    Maybe the UAW’s silence regarding the battery factory is a measure of their confidence in the Volt as GM’s savior. I’d say the UAW is in luck on that count.

  • avatar

    I think that the UAW will horn in on it, if GM is successful.

    If GM can pay their loans, and ditch majority union ownership, I will line back up for my Vetts, Camaros, and Silverados. Till then, the Blue Oval Boys and their 32V 5.0L Mustang is looking good.

  • avatar

    I found it odd that GM didn’t try to do things without the UAW long ago. The joint venture with Toyota could have been a non-union plant. Toyota didn’t have any agreements with the UAW and GM could have said that it was really a Toyota plant. I don’t know how successful it would have been in California, but they never really tried.

    With Saturn, they built a new plant in a “right to work” state, yet bring the UAW on board. It was a whole new company that wasn’t bound to any previous contracts. GM could have tried it. My dad was a UAW member working for GM at the time and GM’s relationship with the UAW at that time couldn’t have gotten any worse over that.

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