GM has bankrupted the Valley by cutting thousands of jobs and is out to cut more, a UAW official says.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
WARREN -- A union official told Trumbull County commissioners they were duped into approving a tax abatement for a General Motors supplier that will lead to a loss of jobs in Lordstown.
Warren Davis, director of United Auto Workers' regional office in Cleveland, said at a meeting with commissioners Monday that the abatement for Android Industries is part of GM's move to cut high-paying union jobs at the Lordstown complex.
GM intends to have Android supply engines to the Lordstown Assembly Plant, which is work now done by about 200 workers inside the plant, said Frank Viloca, a UAW international representative. Android workers would receive engine blocks from another plant and then install alternators, starters, hoses and other parts, he said.
Davis asked commissioners to rescind the abatement for Android's proposed plant, which would employ 185 people within a year. The abatement was approved last week by commissioners and Vienna Township trustees.
Davis questioned whether Android will start the proposed plant on Ridge Road near Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. It doesn't have a deal to supply the engines yet with GM and the national UAW contract would require an agreement with the union before work is moved out of the plant, he said.
Response: Commissioners defended their action throughout a hearing called Monday afternoon, but Commissioner James Tsagaris said at the end that they would consider Davis' request.
Commissioner Joseph Angelo said this area desperately needs jobs so commissioners approved the abatement to help persuade GM not to close the Lordstown plant.
Davis said he doesn't think there's a danger of GM's closing the plant but commissioners are allowing GM to drive down area wages. UAW members working on engines make between $22 and $25 an hour, while Android workers will receive $14 an hour with less benefits, he said.
"I think you're getting duped," he said.
Commissioner Michael O'Brien said commissioners understood that Android would be handling work now being done in the plant but they thought they had no choice. An Android official said it was considering sites in Pennsylvania and Michigan and commissioners thought the abatement was needed to be competitive with those areas, O'Brien said.
Tom Mock, a GM spokesman, said the deal with Android is not finalized but it is part of a proposal to spend about $500 million to renovate the plant for a new car model. GM understands that some parts of the plan will be criticized, he said.
"We're doing what's necessary to build a business case to put the plant in position to build a new product," he said.
He said the renovation plan and new product must be approved before the Android deal can be completed.
Hagan: State Sen. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, attended the hearing and said he's concerned about state and local governments offering financing incentives to companies that are reducing their work forces. He said he has asked Gov. Bob Taft to rescind a $137,000 training grant approved for Android until this can be further investigated. The state also has approved a $1.5 million loan and a job creation tax credit.
"Our paranoia is the fear that this is just the beginning. It's 185 jobs now and 200 later," he said.
The assembly plant had 7,500 hourly workers in 1995 before current Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire models were introduced. It has about 4,500 now, but former Plant Manager Herman Maass said recently that number probably will fall just under 4,000 by year's end.
In total, GM has about 7,200 hourly workers at the Lordstown complex, compared with 11,700 in 1985. It has a fabrication plant adjacent to the assembly plant.
Davis said after the hearing that these job cuts "have bankrupted the Valley" and community leaders should be trying to keep the jobs at the plant.
He said standing up to GM won't make them more likely to move production to another city. GM raises the possibility of closing a plant so that communities feel they have to give in to the company's demands, he said.