A work stoppage at the seating plant could force a shutdown at GM's auto assembly plant.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
LORDSTOWN -- With a contract deadline still more than two weeks away, members of United Auto Workers at Lear Seating Corp. have authorized their leaders to strike if a new agreement can't be reached in time.
But a top UAW leader said the emphasis now is on getting a contract settlement for the 320 Lear workers who manufacture seats for the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire produced at the General Motors Assembly plant nearby.
Jim Graham, president of UAW 1112, which represents the Lear employees, said company and union bargaining teams have been meeting for eight to 10 hours daily. "We're very hopeful for a quick resolution," he said.
Graham was tight-lipped on the contract issues, saying both sides had agreed not to discuss negotiations with the press. A Lear spokeswoman at the company's Southfield, Mich., headquarters could not be reached.
He said Lear employees approved a strike authorization by a 98 percent margin Sunday. Their contract expires Aug. 31.
Strike's effect: Graham acknowledged that a strike at Lear would quickly affect production at the assembly plant. "If we don't have seats, we obviously can't produce cars," he said.
GM's just-in-time delivery ties Cavalier and Sunfire production closely to Lear production, and the seating plant generally delivers seats to the GM plans daily.
Local 1112 also represents about 4,500 hourly workers at the assembly plant, but each plant has its own bargaining committee and officers. Graham oversees both GM and Lear workers.
Wages: UAW employees at Lear received a 43 percent pay increase over three years when they ratified their first contract in August 1998.
Seat assemblers earned $10.50 an hour before the pact took effect, but the agreement increased their hourly rate by $4.50 over the life of the agreement, bringing the wage to $15 an hour.
The contract also provided a 401K tax-deferred savings plan, but no defined-benefit pension plan like those included in UAW contracts at GM plants.
Lear Seating is a publicly held company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LEA. Its stock closed Tuesday at $40.99, and its price has ranged from $19.50 to $41.51 in the last 52 weeks.
The auto interior company reported second quarter profits of $44.9 million, or 69 cents a share, compared with $101.7 million, or $1.53 a share, in the same period a year ago.