Labor dispute at Jeep supplier in Ohio ends after one-day walkout

UPDATED: 4/18/14 11:24 am ET - adds strike ended Thursday

A supplier labor dispute that temporarily disrupted production of the hot-selling 2014 Jeep Cherokee in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday has been resolved.

About 70 workers at a Piston Automotive plant in Toledo walked off the job Thursday. Ken Lortz, regional director of the UAW for Ohio, said the dispute was over recognition of the union as the bargaining representative for the workers in the plant. The walkout was first reported by The Toledo Blade newspaper’s Web site.

Local UAW officials in Toledo said this morning that the walkout ended early Thursday evening when the union and Piston reached an agreement on recognition.

Piston Automotive is based in suburban Detroit and was founded by former Detroit Piston Vinnie Johnson. The company makes axles for the 2014 Cherokee at its plant in Toledo. Jeep sold 36,096 Cherokees during the first quarter.

Lortz told Automotive News that the union had been seeking recognition at the Piston Automotive plant for two months after informing the company that it had collected “an overwhelming majority” of cards from workers requesting union representation.

Lortz said the company had refused to recognize the organizing cards, or that a majority of workers at the Toledo plant wanted to be unionized.

“People knew what they were signing. The fact that those workers walked out of the plant at 9 a.m. is even more validation that they knew exactly what they were signing,” Lortz said.

Prior to the launch of the Cherokee last year, unionized workers for Dana Holding Corp. built the axles for the Jeep Liberty. In bidding, Piston Automotive won the work from Dana.

Calls to Piston Automotive’s Toledo plant and its headquarters seeking comment weren’t answered.

A spokeswoman for Chrysler Group would not say if production of the Cherokee had been halted on Thursday. She said the automaker was monitoring the situation and was hoping for a quick resolution.

In January, Piston hired longtime auto supplier executive Jacqueline Dedo as its president. Dedo, who came to Piston from Dana, was named to the Automotive News list of the 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry in 2010.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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