Report: GM Needs More Manpower, UAW Suggests It Stop Drug Testing

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Flint Truck Assembly is the only standing reminder of General Motors’ formerly impressive commitment to Genesee County, Michigan. Other representations include a myriad of crumbling factories that were closed decades ago and the area’s preponderance of vintage, high-mileage Buicks retained out of utility after the employment situation turned sour. Saying that the region has fallen upon hard times would be a grotesque understatement.

But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t still automotive jobs to be had. Despite GM reducing its Flint workforce from roughly 80,000 in the mid-1970s to fewer than 10,000 in 2010, the truck plant is still operational and reportedly looking for 450 temp workers to help fill in scheduling gaps for the 5,100 union-represented staffers it currently employs. Unfortunately, it’s been having trouble finding enough bodies, though the UAW has a solution. It believes that General Motors should stop drug testing, especially now that Michigan has legalized recreational marijuana use.

“When you have a line of people waiting for a job, then it’s OK to test [for marijuana]. But, if you don’t have enough candidates, testing for marijuana might turn people off from applying,” Eric Welter, the UAW Local 598 Shop Chairman, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press.

He’s worried that younger applicants probably won’t bother to apply at places where they’ll be drug tested, adding that GM is needlessly handicapping itself by using hair-sample tests that would come back as positive for pot use even if someone had consumed marijuana several weeks prior. But the larger issue is that smoking weed is becoming normalized to the same degree as alcohol consumption in increasingly more states, with 16 having legalized it totally. Others have actively decriminalized its possession for medical purposes or lightened punishment for its possession.

While General Motors is also seeking several hundred temporary employees for its Fort Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana, where recreational THC use remains illegal, it confessed that it’s considering changing its drug-testing rules. But it doesn’t see that as the core problem. GM seems to think it’s having difficulties reaching the right people and has been trying to make people aware that it’s hiring by ensuring recruiters appear at employment fairs and remaining active online.

Welter thinks finances might also be a contributing factor and recommended that the automaker start paying more. The Detroit Free Press estimated that the average GM hire makes about $16.60 an hour with benefits kicking in within the first six months. Those that last for two years can also petition the company to become a full-time employee. But the UAW has stated that most new hires won’t last that long.

“You have to start treating people right, improving your compensation and doing something different to attract employees because you’re competing with every major employer in the area,” he said. “Nobody has workers.”

That’s true. Staffing agencies have suggested that it’s become increasingly difficult to find people willing to work, despite pandemic restrictions ending and job openings becoming more common. GM has only been able to find 22 to 25 new people a week for Flint, according to Welter, and many end up needing to be replaced after a short stint on the line. Though the biggest issue for most businesses is finding seriously interested applicants.

“[People] are telling us they’re making an average of $16.05 an hour on unemployment, so why would they work for anything less than that? I’ve been doing this for 29 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Gail Smith, the staffing manager at Snelling Staffing in Roseville, Michigan, explained.

Things have gone better in Indiana, though not by much. The automaker held a job fair for the Fort Wayne Assembly plant last month and only managed to get 60 people. UAW Local 2209 Shop Chairman Rich Letourneau said that would likely be insufficient in keeping the facility operating smoothly.

“We’re looking to hire temps like crazy, we just can’t get them,” he told the paper. “Nobody wants to come to work here.”

LeTourneau agreed with Welter by also hinting that GM could tamp down its drug testing policies. Though they seem to be only interested in the rules pertaining to marijuana, suggesting that it “doesn’t create the problems that opioids, cocaine and other drugs do.”

[Image: GM]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • C5 is Alive C5 is Alive on Jun 16, 2021

    Well, I welcome this news. We all know if there's been one overriding complaint about GM before now, it's that its vehicles are built too well! America: Don't fret about that bar you can't clear. We'll happily lower it.

  • Itwasagoodrun Itwasagoodrun on Jun 19, 2021

    They have it completely backwards. I was hired in at the Ford Kentucky truck plant about 5 years ago. I expected solid, working class dudes, focused on their work and families. What I got at the end of my work day was a rush to the exit that resembled court letting out on Monday afternoon. Pills, weed, trash music, yelling, whining. It reminded me of neing in the free cheese line when I was a kid in the early 80s. Same beautiful soul... This plant is filled with the dregs of society. Needless to say I quit and went into business for myself. I will never work for anyone again. The entire workforce nationwide is now this way. What these plants need to do is get rid of these parasites. Hire good workers and explain to them that change is coming, hang in there with us. That would have been the only thing that would have kept me there.

  • Hermaphroditolog Good hybrid cars use ICE implosion mode.Mercedes-EQXX uses implosion turbines (turboexpanders) for regeneration from heat losses.
  • Kosmo I, for one, and maybe only one, would buy a 5.0 L, stickshift variant of the sedan/hatchback that is Ford's "Not A Mustang EV" tomorrow.I'd buy the sportwagon version yesterday.
  • Akear I am counting the days when Barra retires. She has been one long nightmare for GM. People don't realize the Malibu outsells all GM EVs combined.
  • Redapple2 you say; most car reviewers would place it behind the segment stalwarts from Honda and Toyota,........................... ME: Always so. Every single day since the Accord / Camry introduction.
  • Akear GM sells only 3000 Hummer EVs annually. It is probably the worst selling vehicle in GM history.