LORDSTOWN - After weathering a close re-election, two top United Auto Workers Local 1714 leaders are turning their sights on winning a new vehicle for the General Motors Co. Lordstown Complex.
"We look forward to getting the chance to get a new vehicle," Shop Chairman Will Adams said.
He added he doesn't know when a decision will be made. "GM will announce it at their leisure."
Tribune Chronicle / Larry Ringler
United Auto Workers Local 1714 Shop Chairman Will Adams, left, and President Dave Green look ahead to winning a new vehicle from General Motors Co. after their re-election.
But he expressed confidence the locals members will "do what we need to do" to persuade GM to place another product at Lordstown. "The members have done all the right things in the past. They've made some sacrifices that allows us to be in the conversation. If we're successful, it'll be because of the sacrifices they've made."
"Given the sacrifices our members have made, I'm confident we'll see some positive news," local President Dave Green said of the local's 1,450 members.
Adams and Green both had to survive runoff elections in late May because the first round of voting was too close.
Adams turned back challenger Scott Brubaker for shop chairman, 596 votes to 540, for his third term. Adams was first elected to the position in 2006.
Green won his second full term as president, 659 votes to 646 for challenger Robert "Bobby" Morales. Green finished Jim Kaster's term starting in March 2007, then won election in 2009.
Green said the closeness of the election was due to a contest "between good people."
"I think the people as a whole appreciated the things we've been doing to preserve jobs," Adams said.
The metal center is where workers stamp and fabricate metal parts, as well as build the undercarriage, of the Chevrolet Cruze small car. The Cruze has proven popular, but GM knows it has to keep its products fresh in the face of fierce competition, Adams said.
"GM learned that in the long run models, no matter how good they are, become stale. Young people look for new things," he said.
"It's an extremely competitive market. You have to stay on top of it, and GM is doing that," Green added.
At the same time, workers face tougher requirements for quality and efficiency in building vehicles. Adams and Green noted GM originally planned to build the Cruze in Mexico but that International UAW leadership, led by Cal Rapson, fought to put it in Lordstown. Changes in work rules and other processes carried the day for Lordstown.
"It was difficult for our members, but our image up north (at GM and UAW Detroit headquarters) is greatly improved," Adams said.
Green said members still labor under job uncertainty, especially after the ordeal of 2009 when the Great Recession drove the company into a government-led bankruptcy process
Many workers had to transfer to Lordstown from plants around the country that GM was shuttering, straining family resources and emotions. About half of the plant's work force are transfers, including those who displaced from Warren-area auto parts supplier Delphi Packard in that company's bankruptcy.
"We have people from just about every GM plant," Adams said. "We're considered a melting pot. It's exciting because you get new ideas and learn something about yourself."
The UAW-GM national agreement allows union officials to hire replacements at the entry rate of $15.78 an hour as transfers return to their home plants. Workers top at out around $19 an hour.
Some are referred by active workers, but other spots are open to the public and military veterans, who can get information at area One-Stop jobs offices.
Adams said Local 1714 has added about 100 replacements and expects to reach about 1,500 members this year.
The local also has added nearly 20 "flex" workers, who work 24 hours a week, but up to 40 hours as needed. As full-time workers leave, the flex employees are the first to be considered for those jobs. They also get a lower level of benefits after seven months.
Despite the best efforts of the union and company, the union leaders know some of their future depends on the global economy, which for now is being hurt by slowdowns in Europe and China.
"In North America, as long as we have fresh products and keep our quality, we'll be OK," Adams said.
"We recognize issues in Europe, but they're out of our control," Green said. "We can only focus on building a quality product and doing the best we can every day."