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Published: Saturday, 9/28/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Powertrain group sues GM, union over wages

Toledo Transmission workers seeking $3M

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A group of more than 50 current and former employees of General Motors Co.’s Toledo Transmission plant have filed a lawsuit against the automaker and their union, alleging a breach of contract has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages and benefits.

The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, seeks $3 million from GM in back wages, back retirement benefits, and attorney fees.

The employees bringing the suit are all skilled tradesmen who were laid off from the Toledo plant in January, 2009, during the automotive industry’s downturn. By the middle of 2009, most had been brought back by GM but were working at the now-closed Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Steven M. Hyder, the attorney representing the group, said the workers kept their seniority and skilled-trade wages. In early 2010, GM sent letters to all the employees calling them back to the Toledo plant. However, the employees say they were placed in production jobs and paid production wages, not their higher skilled-trade wages.

The wage difference varies slightly among the plaintiffs, but Mr. Hyder said on average the workers were paid about $5 less per hour. He said GM can use skilled trades in production jobs, but must continue paying them the higher wages. Not doing so, he said, is a violation of the contract between GM and the Untied Auto Workers union.

“That is really clear in the contract,” Mr. Hyder said in a phone interview. “It’s black and white. To my knowledge and understanding, every other GM plant is paying the skilled trade their wages with the exception of Powertrain.”

The suit lists 55 named plaintiffs and two unnamed plaintiffs.

A GM spokesman told The Blade he was not aware of the suit and couldn’t comment on it. As a general rule, GM does not comment on pending litigation.

The employees are also suing the UAW over what they say was a failure to represent their interests. Mr. Hyder said a grievance filed by the employees with the union was dropped by the UAW International after the union and GM came to some sort of an agreement. He said the decision was made with no explanation to members and without their knowledge.

“Their only option is to file a lawsuit and seek judicial intervention,” he said.

The suit names both the United Auto Workers International and UAW Local 14, which represents workers at the plant.

Officials from the union couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 



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