9/25/07

GM suppliers idled by UAW strike

As union workers at General Motors Corp. went on strike Monday morning, some of the employees at companies that supply the massive Lordstown complex are out of work as well. Union workers affiliated with companies such as Intier Seating Systems, Lear Corp. and Automodular of Lordstown all were off the job, according to Local 1112 United Auto Workers Union President Jim Graham. Between them, they represent about 443 employees, Graham said.

"There’s nothing to supply," Graham said.

Some reports indicate companies that supply parts to the assembly plant were sending workers home, but many administrators at these places refused to comment.

One company announced it would suspend its supply of parts to GM, depending on the length of the strike.

A handful of cars were parked outside Lear, a plant that ships interior roofs called "headliners" and door pads to the plant.

Tom Tomko, a maintenance worker at Lear, said he was one of four employees left after workers were served with layoff papers before noon Monday. Tomko said he and three other employees were left to finish out the week to catch up on repair work, but if the strike is still going by Friday, they’re out too.

He described some workers "hooting and hollering" as they were punching out for the rest of the day with its nice weather, but he said there was some concern if the strike goes on too long.

"At least they get to collect unemployment. I think it’s a concern that it could go on longer. It could affect sales," said Tomko of Youngstown.

But as reports indicated the United Auto Workers national strike was an effort to force GM to commit to building vehicles in America, Tomko said he had to side with the union, despite the uncertainty.

"We’re losing too many good jobs here," he said.

Conflicting reports were received concerning Intier, where people who answered a phone call placed in the lobby of that business deferred comment until today, about what, if any, production was going on at the plant.

There were cars in Intier’s parking lot, and some workers said work was continuing for now. The company builds car seats for the Lordstown complex.

"I know they’re not putting the seats in our cars. That’s a guarantee," Graham said.

Tracy Fuerst, a spokeswoman of Intier’s parent company Magna International, was reached by e-mail. She wrote that no workers she was aware of were sent home Monday.

But one worker said employees reported to work, stayed for two hours and then were told they could stay and clean or go home for the day. After today, the worker said they were told to work on a call-in basis.

When asked about this, Fuerst said she could call the plant today, but she did not hear anything. A statement from Magna said, depending on the length of the strike, the company may be required to suspend the supply of parts to GM. When asked how that would affect workers, or how the company would handle an extended strike, Fuerst responded that she could not speculate on the strike’s impact.

Administration at Lear declined to comment about the status of its workers, as did people who answered the door at the exhaust system supplier Faurecia next door.

Calls to Lear spokesmen were not returned Monday.

A Falcon Transport truck was parked at the dock at the Lear plant, though Human Resources director Dan Gold declined to comment earlier in the day if Falcon workers were still on the job.

(tribune-chronicle.com)

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