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UAW opposes arbitration in GM legal fight

LORDSTOWN — Attorneys for United Auto Workers in the union’s fight to stop General Motors from closing three plants, including GM’s Lordstown assembly facility, have asked a judge to deny the automaker’s request to order arbitration on grievances central to the lawsuit.

The UAW responded to GM’s call to settle the dispute before an impartial umpire by stating the claim of the case — that GM sidestepped a plant-closing moratorium agreement — is not arbitrable, and neither is a grievance later filed by GM.

The UAW also argues the moratorium does not contain a grievance procedure and is not part of the national collective bargaining agreement and thus not arbitrable.

The motions stem from arguments GM made in March — that the UAW did not exhaust grievance arbitration procedures contained in its collective bargaining agreement, which also prohibits the union from going to court to settle a contractual dispute while the grievances remain open.

GM later used the argument to ask federal court Judge Benita Y. Pearson to dismiss the case — a request that remains open — but since, the complaints were withdrawn.

The automaker then used “its contractual right to initiate issues as a grievance” for appeal to arbitration and asked Pearson to compel that method of dispute resolution.

The grievances that dealt with the plant idlings were from Lordstown and from the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan.

GM in its arbitration request argued, in part, the UAW broke the national agreement by challenging in court “GM’s product allocation decisions” and not following the grievance procedure in the contract.

The UAW disagrees, stating it is “challenging GM’s breach of the plant-closing moratorium.” The sides struck the agreement in October 2015 that states GM committed not to close or idle the plants through the expiration of the contract unless conditions beyond GM’s control made compliance impossible.

The contract expires at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14. Pearson has yet to rule on the matter.

The three plants in question are Lordstown, which produced the Chevrolet Cruze; the Baltimore Operations transmission plant in White Marsh, Md.; and the Warren Transmission Plant in Warren, Mich.

The Maryland site manufactures electric motors and drive trains, and the Michigan plant makes transmissions.

New UAW / GM contract talks are underway in Detroit, as are negotiations between the union and Detroit’s other two large automakers, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Local union members and officials are holding out hope GM negotiators can convince the automaker to reopen the Lordstown plant with a new vehicle.

Lordstown idled March 6. It was the first of the plants to do so.

GM is in talks with a Cincinnati-based startup to purchase the sprawling production facility to make electric fleet pickup trucks. A great deal of skepticism from local automakers and officials surrounds the proposal, however.

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