Saturday, Feb 17, 2018
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Automotive

UAW's auto show protest grows as layoffs occur

Non-union truck drivers arrived Friday at the Toledo Jeep operations to replace 16 union drivers who were pink-slipped Monday by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — according to UAW Local 12 officials, who reacted with anger and dismay.

The union insists that Fiat Chrysler’s decision to eliminate the Toledo Truck Terminal and its 88 union drivers was made without negotiations, a violation of Local 12’s contract with Fiat Chrysler.

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Fiat Chrysler Transportation fleet driver Sysco Garza speaks during a protest at UAW Local 12 against the proposed elimination of jobs at the Toledo Jeep transportation facility in Toledo.

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Conversely, Fiat Chrysler insists it had discussions with UAW officials for more than two years regarding the terminal and the 88 jobs, and that the matter now is closed.

Neither side appeared open to changing their position Friday, a development that could turn the 30-year cooperative relationship at the Toledo Assembly Complex back into an adversarial one.

“They’re going to need to sit down and work this out with us, or things are going to deteriorate,” Bruce Baumhower, UAW Local 12 president, said Friday.

Fiat Chrysler spokesman Jodi Tinson said the automaker had no further comment at this time on the situation.

Earlier this week, Fiat Chrysler reiterated an earlier position that it “has been in discussions with the UAW for over two years and will continue to work with the union to find placement opportunities for any impacted employees” of the truck terminal.

But Mr. Baumhower said Fiat Chrysler won’t disclose which UAW leaders it had discussions with the last two years, and won’t produce any documents to back its claim.

The Local 12 president said UAW International officials have voiced concern that if the union drivers can be replaced without negotiations, per the contract, then other units elsewhere may be vulnerable.

The matter has so irked UAW members in Toledo and elsewhere that a protest set for Sunday outside the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which was to involve just a few hundred Jeep workers, has ballooned to include a growing list of other UAW locals.

Local 12 received pledges of support this week from Local 1435 at Chrysler’s Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg; UAW Local 51 at Chrysler’s Mound Road engine plant in Detroit, and UAW Local 372 at Chrysler’s engine plant in Trenton, Mich., which had a membership meeting set for Sunday but canceled it to join the protest.

Then on Friday, leaders at Ford Motor Co.’s largest union local — Dearborn-based UAW Local 600, which represents 24,000 workers at southeast Michigan Ford operations including the sprawling Rouge Complex — called Mr. Baumhower to say they would be joining the protest.

Support also came from one other surprising source: Jerry Huber, retired Jeep Plant Manager and chairman of the Toledo Jeep Fest Steering Committee.

On Local 12’s Facebook page Mr. Huber wrote that the truck terminal should remain part of Jeep. “Fight the fight for a right solution and demand a fair negotiation process. History is also on your side,” Mr. Huber wrote.

“I think everyone realizes if [Chrysler] can come into a UAW facility and remove union members from their jobs and hand them to non-union workers, then what will stop them from doing that to skilled trades or the paint shop?” Mr. Baumhower said.

Initially, Local 12 expected to send about two hundred members to the auto show protest. Mr. Baumhower rented four buses but said he was unsure if he could fill them.

But by midday Friday, Local 12 members had filled six buses and no more space remained, so about 100 workers signed a sheet indicating they would drive their vehicles to the auto show protest.

Earlier this week Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne commented on how good a work force he has in Toledo, and that the company was proud to see the Toledo-built Wrangler on display inside the auto show.

Mr. Baumhower said that while he appreciated the CEO’s comments, “He needs to know our fleet drivers were a huge part of that success.”

The Local 12 president said he hoped Mr. Marchionne might intercede in the Toledo situation. “But frankly, we’re not sure if he even knows what’s going on,” he added.

Contact Blade Business Writer Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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