The Lordstown Workers Gave Up a Lot in an Attempt to Save Their Plant

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A couple of weeks ago President Trump offered a helpful tweet to the autoworkers in Lordstown, Ohio, who had just lost their jobs after GM shut down their plant.

April Fools! It wasn’t helpful at all. The president just told the United Autoworkers local president, who represents a bunch of Ohio residents who are now weighing uprooting their lives and moving to a new GM facility against unemployment, to stop complaining:

Way to go, Mr. President! He’s just tellin’ it like it is, on Twitter. He tends to say stuff like thisabout unions whenever he catches heat (on a TV channel he watches) from a union leader for not following through on his specific promises to save American manufacturing jobs. A common suggestion is to “lower dues,” as if organized labor hasn’t done anything to keep production in unionized plants.   

Well, organized labor isn’t a monolith and not all unions operate in the same way, but the United Autoworkers in Lordstown were very accommodating to GM in their last round of contract negotiations before the company shuttered the plant. They were agreeing to what the company called a “super competitive operating agreement” in an attempt to ward off layoffs … which came anyway.

Seriously, just read some of this stuff from Bloomberg:

To cut costs, the UAW merged Locals 1112 and 1714, which saved the company $3 million a year in administrative costs. Then the union agreed to outsource non-assembly jobs like handling of parts and materials to lower-wage workers employed by a subsidiary called GM Subsystems LLC, according to a document reviewed by Bloomberg.

Next, they allowed GM to cut the number of skilled tradesmen including electricians, pipe fitters, mechanics and die makers in half to 130 by letting the company contract out for overtime skilled-trade work and by changing job classifications, said Scott Brubaker, who was chairman of Local 1714.

The union allowed outside firms to send in contractors to repair supplier parts and assembled vehicles at the plant. It also agreed to drop the number of extra workers employed to cover absentee workers to 60, from 150.

These companies are driven, ultimately, by turning a profit as they and bloodless industry consultants say over and over again, and there are profits to be made by offshoring jobs to Mexico where workers have grown more productive while wages haven’t really budged.

If the USMCA – the NAFTA rewrite the Trump administration negotiated with Canada and Mexico – is ratified, that will help. It would require autos to be built by workers making at least $16 an hour to avoid U.S. import tariffs. That will draw auto assembly jobs back into the States and cause Mexican wages to rise (and make American labor rates more competitive by comparison).

That would be a legitimately big deal for the American autoworker. So you can’t say President Trump, who heads the Trump administration, isn’t doing anything to help those that are getting jerked around by a company that reported record profits last year.

But there's no ratified deal yet to help make American auto wages more competitive, so there's no help for the workers in Lordstown. And in the meantime, the president just tweets.


Reposted from AAM

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