DETROIT — Last September, General Motors shocked the industry when it gave detailed future product plans to the UAW, which promptly made them public. In a business where such plans are kept tightly under wraps, GM's openness was extraordinary.
It was also a key to rank-and-file approval of the groundbreaking 2007 GM-UAW contract. The story of how that came together centers on one player in the negotiations: GM's vice president of labor relations, Diana Tremblay.
Union leaders say Tremblay, who led GM's negotiating team, was pivotal to the agreement. She gave the union more access to financial data than anyone had before, says Cal Rapson, a UAW vice president.
In particular, she pushed top GM executives to release the product plans to the UAW. Union officials say the detailed plans, which specified vehicles assigned to assembly plants, were needed to persuade rank-and-file union members to rewrite GM's wage and benefit structure.
Still, the move riled some top executives. When GM product plans became public, one GM executive was described by an aide as being "apoplectic."
Tremblay admits that her openness cost GM some proprietary information but says it won the company critical concessions.
Tremblay's negotiating strategy came into focus in 2004, when she returned to GM's Detroit headquarters as executive director of North American labor relations. She had been manager of GM's Antwerp, Belgium, assembly plant and hadn't participated in labor talks since 2000.