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GM Workers Strike Against Low Wages at Orion Plant

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On: Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 10:30AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

 GM Workers Strike Against Low Wages at Orion Plant

Union workers at General Motors have gathered outside the UAW headquarters in Detroit to stage a new protest. The picketers comprise a group of approximately 100 retirees and union employees demonstrating against low wages that General Motors is paying for the assembly of a new compact car, the Aveo.

Just a few days after GM signed a contract to produce a new subcompact car for Chevrolet and the Buick Verano at Orion Township plant, the protest began when workers were told that they had to accept wages that were 50% less than union members had been making. Production is planned to begin in August and General Motors plans to employ over 1,300 workers at the “now-shuttered assembly plant.”

UAW workers are angry regarding the details of the new contract. According to Reuters: “Rick Milkie, a nine-year Orion plant veteran, said the UAW's concession allowing GM to hire an increasing number of workers at wages of about $14 per hour was an unacceptable concession by a union credited with helping to create an industrial middle class in the years after World War II.

"Walter Reuther (UAW’s long-serving president) is rolling in his grave," said Milkie, who was marching outside UAW headquarters with a sign saying, "Call a Cop, I've Been Robbed."

The United Auto Workers have contracted with GM to allow the company to run the Orion plant with a little less than half of its workers earning only $14 per hour which is half of the hourly wage that veteran workers make at close to $29 per hour. According to a union official, GM plans to employ all workers at half wages in the future.

"The object at Orion was to become an all tier-two plant as long as it was (making) small cars," Mike Dunn, president of UAW Local 5960, said in a webcast. "That could take 20 years." GM says the company needs to pay lower wages in order to make new subcompact vehicles profitable enough to build in the United States. "The unique language in the Orion agreement is specific for that plant and for small cars," GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said in a statement. "We believe this collaboration with the UAW keeps good manufacturing jobs in America."

If it weren’t for union concessions and over $700 million in state tax incentives, GM would have chosen to build the Chevrolet Aveo subcompact in Korea or Mexico, according to Dunn.

"They've got to make this car with a profit," he said on the webcast. "Small cars were never built with a profit in the U.S." But protesters feel that there is a need to “roll back the concessions.” The next scheduled discussions between the UAW and GM won’t be until 2011 and, according to Greg Clark, GM worker: "We've got to go back to the drawing board."



imwithcoco | 5:32PM (Mon, Oct 18, 2010)

Very true! I'm tired of hearing auto workers from Ford, GM & Chrysler complain about only getting paid $14 to $20 an hour to install one bolt in each vehicle. These are the same people that will shout "BUY AMERICAN" from the highest hill then wonder why American companies are getting stomped.

Does bad management still exist? Sure it does, just look at GM, but the major problem is the "big three" historically pays nearly twice as much as foreign company's domestic plants. American auto manufacturers must be able to compete with manufactures like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda & Hyundai.

Foreign manufacturers plants also give employees more control / responsibility for the product being created. Worker can stop the line (supervisors encourage it) if they see a problem with the vehicle they are building. Stopping the line could cause more work for the worker but also helps create pride and insures a better product to the customer.

Employees and the UAW need to settle pay disputes and realize that the days of excess are coming to an end. If they are not careful, the manufactures will continue the push to automate every position in the plant. Robots are expensive but they don't complain, don't need health care, and don't need vacations or lunch breaks.

Think I'm kidding? Look at VW's Phaeton plant in Dresden, Germany, Hyundai Plant in Montgomery, Alabama or many of the plants operated by BMW. All of these plants operate with minimal human interaction.

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