Union Official: UAW Bent Over Backwards for GM to Keep Lordstown Open, and for What?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
union official uaw bent over backwards for gm to keep lordstown open and for what

The last Chevrolet Cruze rolled out of Lordstown Assembly earlier this month, with the 53-year-old plant going dark two days later. Some laid-off workers are staying put, waiting to see if September contract talks hold any promise of a future in Lordstown.

While General Motors admits the United Auto Workers was willing to do its part to save the Lordstown Assembly Plant, details of that pact remained unknown. Now, a union official has shed light on some of the concessions the UAW agreed to.

Declining sales of the plant’s sole product spelled the end for the model, and potentially the plant itself. Still, UAW officials felt there was hope for its continued operation, Concessions agreed to by the UAW and a new product would have given the facility a new lease on life, one official claims.

“Everything they asked us to do, we did,” said Dan Morgan, shop chairman of Local 1112 and chief negotiator of the agreement, in an interview with Bloomberg.

In 2017, after GM cut Lordstown’s third shift amid falling sedan sales, UAW officials met with GM brass over the course of three months, eventually hatching out a plan to make Cruze production more profitable. According to Morgan, the union agreed to concessions contained within a “Super Competitive Operating Agreement” — an even more aggressive pact than the one put into action at GM’s low-profit Orion plant.

“We knew we were making small cars,” Morgan said. “We wanted to know what we had to do to stay in the game.”

GM reportedly told the union officials that a more competitive labor agreement could help the plant gain a new product. Perhaps a Mexican-made product would come stateside, some members hoped. The agreement, signed in July 2017 and put into effect in 2018 “allowed GM to bring in contractors, temps and other lower-wage staff to work in the plant,” Bloomberg reports, with the concessions amounting to $118 million a year. Not surprisingly, it proved unpopular with members.

Another part of the deal was the merging of UAW Locals 1112 and 1714 for cost-saving reasons. For its part, GM agreed to amp up the Cruze’s marketing and offer deals on certain options — moves that never happened, Morgan claims.

Cruze sales continued to decline, with Lordstown losing its second shift in June of 2018. Still, by October of last year, Morgan said the Cruze was profitable, which made GM’s November restructuring announcement all the more surprising.

While GM spokesman Dan Flores admits the UAW made concessions, ultimately, “We didn’t discontinue the Cruze because of something the local union did or didn’t do,” he said. “It was a market-driven decision to discontinue the Cruze, and there were no products to allocate to Lordstown.”

As laid-off workers ponder whether to uproot their lives and take positions offered at other plants scattered across the Midwest, some worry waiting for Lordstown Assembly’s potential salvation will leave them last in line — and out of luck.

[Image: General Motors]

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2 of 34 comments
  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Mar 31, 2019

    It's simple. To the major corporations, communities don't matter. Customers don't really matter. Employees really don't matter. Shareholders matter. And shareholders want short-term results, so they can sell their shares quickly for a profit. After they do, the company and all its stakeholders can go straight to hell.

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 01, 2019

    Do us all a favor, take it all down to bare land. By the time new owners/users bring it all up to current commercial building code, it'd be much cheaper to start from scratch. That's partly why so many historic commercial and industrial builds go abandoned forever. GM is clearly dying to build cars where unemployment is greatest anyway. Mexico, right next to their sweatshop labor, parts suppliers.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.