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Judge rules against GM’s dismissal request

Case on temporary workers at Fort Wayne plant to continue

LORDSTOWN — A federal court judge has denied General Motors’ request to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the automaker violated its contract with United Auto Workers by not sending workers, including several hundred from Lordstown, to work at a plant in Indiana.

The UAW claims GM broke the agreement by using temporary workers instead of about 1,000 previously laid-off employees — about 700 of whom worked at Lordstown — at the Fort Wayne, Ind., plant that produces the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 2, which was about two months before the last day of production of the Chevrolet Cruze at the now idled assembly plant in Lordstown.

The allegation contained in the lawsuit, GM claimed, was contradictory to another section of the collective bargaining agreement, over which a grievance had been filed, that the temporary workers should be converted into seniority employees rather than offering the laid-off workers the jobs.

GM argued the union’s two claims — one in court and one in the grievance procedure — “cannot persist along parallel tracks” because they cover the same subject, according to the decision.

Federal Judge Benita Y. Pearson rejected GM’s claim.

“Nowhere does (the grievance) demand that those temporary employees should, themselves, fill permanent positions at the Fort Wayne plant, as General Motors asserts,” Pearson’s ruling states.

If the union wins the grievance and the temporary employees are given seniority status, “that status would not somehow interrupt or diminish the seniority rights independently secured to laid-off Lordstown employees by the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), nor would it be rendered meaningless just because certain permanent positions are not available,” the ruling states.

GM has said it has been discontinuing the use of temporary employees and has offered jobs to various laid-off UAW members formerly at the Lordstown facility, and many of the job offers have been accepted.

Meanwhile, another motion to dismiss a second lawsuit filed by the UAW against GM over idling Lordstown and two other plants remains pending.

The UAW sued GM in February over a breach of contract claim, trying to stop GM from idling three plants: Lordstown, Baltimore Operations transmission plant in White Marsh, Md., and the Warren Transmission Plant in Warren, Mich. Lordstown stopped production March 6.

The union claims GM cannot idle plants until the collective bargaining agreement the sides have expires Sept. 14 because of a plant-closing moratorium they struck in October 2015.

GM argues in its dismissal request the UAW did not exhaust grievance arbitration procedures contained in its contract, which also bars the union from going to court to settle a contractual dispute while grievances remain open, according to a motion filed in the case.

Pearson, who is also hearing this case, has already ruled against GM in its request to move the case from Youngstown to Michigan.

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