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LORDSTOWN Lear avoids strike



Published: Sun, September 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Because Lear supplies car seats to General Motors, a strike could have affected production at the Lordstown assembly plant.

LORDSTOWN -- A pending strike by Lear Seating employees was averted Saturday when union officials postponed a midnight Friday strike deadline by one week.

United Auto Workers officials said it could be a sign that an agreement is near.

"I think it's a very good sign that the negotiating team felt they were close enough to a settlement that they didn't walk out," said Darwin Cooper, vice president of UAW Local 1112. "I saw it as a real positive sign."

Talks between Lear and the UAW have been suspended until Tuesday; the union's new strike deadline is midnight Friday.

Lear officials could not be reached.

Cooper said negotiators are close to a settlement and are "working hard on economic issues."

Working for agreement: Since a meeting to vote on a new contract wasn't scheduled until Sept. 9, it made sense for negotiators to keep working toward that date without a strike, especially if an agreement is on the horizon, he said.

Lear workers voted last month to authorize their leaders to call a strike. Union officials visited the Lear plant during second shift Friday to explain the situation to workers there. They would have been the first to walk off their jobs had the strike deadline been reached.

Because Lear workers make seats for cars built at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant, a strike would have affected production there.

UAW Local 1112 represents about 320 people at the Lear plant. It represents 4,500 workers at the car assembly plant. The union has separate bargaining teams for both plants and only the Lear workers are affected by these negotiations.

Union officials have said a strike at Lear would quickly affect production at the car plant, which makes the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire. The seating plant generally delivers seats to the GM plant daily.

No preparations: A GM spokesman said earlier this week that officials were told that talks at the Lear plant were going well, so no preparations were made for a strike.

Union officials are not elaborating on bargaining issues.

Lear workers received a 43 percent pay increase over three years when they ratified their first contract in August 1998. Seat assemblers now make $15 an hour.

The contract included a 401(k) savings plan, but no defined-benefit pension plan like those included in UAW contracts at GM plants.




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