2 GM pickets plead not guilty to disorderly conduct charges

LORDSTOWN — Two members of United Auto Workers accused of disorderly conduct while on the picket line outside the General Motors assembly plant pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday.

Jonathan H. Alexander of Youngstown has a trial in Newton Falls Municipal Court on the minor misdemeanor charge set for Nov. 7, and Charles W. Denison of Lake Milton is due back Oct. 31 for a pretrial hearing, according to court personnel.

Alexander, 46, and Denison, 41, were charged Wednesday by Lordstown police in connection to a report two men weren’t letting workers from Leadec Corp. into the parking lot through the main gate on Hallock Young Road.

The workers perform janitorial, mechanical and other maintenance services at the Lordstown plant and at other GM facilities. They are members of UAW Local 1112, but Leadec workers are not authorized to strike.

The Leadec workers, who have complained to police of coffee being thrown on a vehicle, of strikers in the road and of one striking worker hitting a vehicle entering the plant with a wooden sign, have asked for police escorts into and out of the parking lot to avoid confrontation with the pickets.

Lordstown police provide the help if an officer is available.

Meanwhile, contract talks aimed at ending a 22-day strike by the UAW against GM continued Monday after United Auto Workers union bargainers rejected a company offer Sunday.

In a letter to members, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes cast doubt on whether there will be a quick settlement in the contract dispute, which sent 49,000 workers to the picket lines Sept. 16, crippling GM’s factories. Pickets have been outside the idled Lordstown plant since the work stoppage began Sept. 16.

Dittes’ letter said the union presented a proposal to the company Saturday. He said GM responded Sunday morning by reverting back to an offer that had been rejected and made few changes.

The company’s proposal did nothing to address a host of items, Dittes wrote Sunday, specifying job security for members during the term of the four-year contract.

Normally in contract talks, the union bargains for commitments from the company to build new vehicles, engines, transmissions and other items at U.S. factories represented by the union.

“It did nothing to provide job security during the term of this agreement,” Dittes wrote. “We, in this union, could not be more disappointed with General Motors who refuse to recognize the experience and talent of our membership.”

In a statement, GM said it continues to negotiate in good faith “with very good proposals that benefit employees today and builds a stronger future for all of us.”

The company said it is committed to talking around the clock to resolve the dispute.

The strike immediately halted production at GM’s U.S. factories. On Monday, GM shut down V8 engine and continuously variable transmission assembly lines at its Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, idling about 415 workers. Earlier, the company closed two assembly plants in Mexico and Canada.

A person briefed on the talks said Sunday the union voiced concerns about GM increasing production in Mexico, where it now builds pickup trucks, small cars and two SUVs. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private, said both sides are far apart on guarantees of new products in U.S. factories.

An earlier report from the talks was that GM offered to locate an electric battery plant in Lordstown, where it idled the assembly plant March 6.