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Local 1112 votes down the GM contract that closes Lordstown plant

NORTH JACKSON — There is a sign at the entrance of Reuther Drive — not the one directing motorists to United Auto Workers Local 1112’s union hall a mile or so away, but one urging what’s left of its membership to vote down a tentative contract agreement with General Motors.

That’s what they did Thursday in huge way — 87 percent against to 13 percent for the agreement that promises a pay raise, lump-sum payments and signing bonuses of $11,000 for seniority employees and $4,500 for temporary employees, but also marks the end of the assembly plant in Lordstown.

“If you want job security,” the sign states, then vote no — with a large check mark occupying a box under the word no.

The vote was 412 against and 61 for the agreement. The numbers are for skilled workers and production workers together.

Rick Michaels didn’t vote Thursday, but did earlier this week at his new Local 652 in Lansing, Mich. He’s a former member of Local 1112 at GM’s Lordstown assembly plant who now belongs to a local union at the Lansing / Grand River Assembly Plant.

Michaels transferred there in August with 25 years at Lordstown, which is idle now and will close if UAW members across the U.S. ratify the tentative agreement struck last week.

“There is no job security in it,” said Michaels of Austintown, who stayed in a hotel and came home at the end of his work week before the strike began Sept. 16. “Overall, for the seniority people, it’s a bad contract. I’m not going after the younger ones, but for us, there is nothing in it for us.”

Voting at Local 1112 happened Thursday after members of the international union rolled out details of the contract to about 500 local members inside the hall. Voting ended at 8 p.m.

Michaels said the presentation was “horrible” and questions weren’t answered.

“The answer was, ‘I have to get back to you,'” he said.

The UAW wanted voting done by the end of the week. Already, several UAW locals across the county have ratified the agreement, including Local 652, members of which approved the agreement Wednesday with about 75 percent in favor. It represents about 1,300 workers.

Members of Local 2164 at the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., rejected the agreement. It’s where about 400 Local 1112 members transferred after GM announced it was idling the Lordstown plant.

Other plants in Colorado, New York and in Lansing also rejected the offer.

In exchange for the raises, bonuses and other compensation, the contract allows for GM to close Lordstown and powertrain plants in Warren, Mich., and near Baltimore. The Detroit Hamtramck plant, which GM wanted to close, will stay open and a new electric pickup truck will be built there.

The agreement also includes assistance packages for employees at Lordstown and other plants set to close.

General Motors transferred Sonja Woods in September to the Bowling Green, Ky., plant. She voted no.

“It gave nothing to me,” said Woods of Newton Falls. “I’ve got 25 years and beside the signing bonus, they gave me nothing for my time.”

Woods’ sister-in-law, Sherry Pratt, turned down a forced transfer to the Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant, but her husband, Mark, went to the Kentucky plant.

Pratt of North Jackson, hired in Lordstown in 2008, now finds herself in a difficult spot — the new contract would afford her the chance to get back on the transfer list, but at the “bottom of the Totem pole” for seniority, or she could take a buyout.

The difficulty comes from the risk if she stays and gets put on a waiting list, but never has her number called. Then she’s out of a job and missed the buyout. which according to the UAW’s contract highlight sheet is $22,500 for her level of seniority.

“So do I wait and hang in limbo or take the buyout and get something?” she said.

Local 1112 members have picketed outside the Lordstown plant since the start of the strike. They held out hope bargainers could secure a new vehicle line for the plant that went idle on March 6. Those hopes, however, were dashed when details of the tentative agreement were released. Striking local members will remain on the picket until a contract is ratified.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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