A UAW-management détente at the Chevrolet Cruze assembly plant has been restored following allegations that General Motors Co. used outside workers to make factory repairs on the cars, said union Local 1112 President Jim Graham.
After union leaders insisted last week that the work must be performed in-house, GM stopped sending the cars to a third-party vendor for underbody repairs, said Graham. He represents about 4,500 workers at the automaker's Lordstown (Ohio) Assembly Plant.
“Tempers flared temporarily, but the issue was resolved the next day,” Graham said in a phone interview Monday.
GM spokesman Chris Lee said the issue is now being addressed jointly, “with a resolution expected soon.”
Graham today backed off a missive that he and UAW Local 1112 Shop Chairman Ben Strickland fired off in a factory flyer last week after learning of the outsourced repairs.
That letter, posted on dissident Web sites and verified by Graham, said relations with management had not improved, despite major union contract changes in 2007 and during GM's subsequent slide into bankruptcy.
“The only time management wants to work jointly is when it benefits them; they have been sneaky, evasive and dishonest on many issues,” Graham and Strickland said in the flyer.
Graham today said the harshness of the language was caused by the stresses that the union and management are under to produce the hot-selling new Chevrolet compact.
“It's a family squabble,” Graham said.
Disputes over skilled workers
Chevrolet is banking on the Cruze, which replaces the Cobalt, to capture young buyers and fuel-conscious baby boomers. The Cruze is just getting into dealer showrooms.
Lordstown was notorious for labor conflict during the 1970s, when it produced the Chevrolet Vega. More recently, The New York Times and other news outlets have cited the plant for a high level of cooperation between management and the union.
“Everyone has come to a realization that management is not the enemy, and the union is not the enemy,” Graham was quoted saying in a January Times article.
The flyer says “management is not your friend.”
Contentious flyers from local UAW leaders, once common in UAW plants, have become rare in recent years as the union and Detroit management have worked cooperatively to keep jobs in the United States. Strickland was in Detroit Monday to discuss the outsourcing issue along with other practices with the UAW International, Graham said.
In the flyer, the local union leaders also say disputes had arisen over how skilled workers were being used at the plant. Skilled-trades classifications were dramatically reduced under the 2007 master contract with GM.