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Valley continues to respond to General Motors' demands



Published: Sun, September 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If General Motors Corp. decides not to build the next generation of compact cars at its Lordstown assembly plant, it won't be because of something the workers at the facility and the adjacent fabricating plant did or did not do.

It may sound trite, but members of United Auto Workers Locals 1112 and 1714 have put their personal interests aside in favor of the greater good -- to ensure that automobile manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley continues for many years.

In January, workers at the assembly plant approved a three-year contract that clearly benefits the company and, in fact, was portrayed as an important piece of the puzzle. Then last month, fabricating plant workers approved a shelf agreement that came with a promise of a $230 million investment in the plant if GM proceeds with a $500 million upgrade of the assembly complex.

And today, workers at the adjacent Lear Seating Corp., which makes seats for the Chevrolet Cavalier and the Pontiac Sunfire, were voting on an agreement that would guarantee the continued operation of the assembly facility. The 320 Lear Seating employees, who are represented by Local 1112 but have a separate bargaining committee, had taken a strike authorization vote last month, but a walkout was averted as negotiations progressed. A tentative agreement was reached last week.

Message: Approval of the contract today will deliver a strong message to GM exectives in Detroit: Look no further than the Mahoning Valley for production of the next generation of the highly successful Cavalier and the popular Sunfire.

But it isn't only the Valley that has pulled out all the stops in order to secure a commitment from the world's leading automobile manufacturer. Gov. Bob Taft and the Ohio Department of Development have worked tirelessly to put together an incentive package that meets all GM's needs. While the details of the package have not been made public, the governor has repeatedly said that it is superior to any offer GM has received from other states.

That said, we are concerned about the $25 million set aside in the two-year state budget for economic development projects -- keeping GM in the Valley tops the list -- because of last week's Supreme Court ruling on funding for primary and secondary education. The court has said the state must spend billions of dollars more on students, but the Republican leadership in the General Assembly is refusing to talk about new sources of revenue. We would urge Taft to fight any attempt by the legislature to reprogram the $25 million.

A front page story today says that decision by GM could come in the fall. It shouldn't be a difficult one given what has occurred in the Valley and in Columbus.




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