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EDITORIAL

Breakdown in labor trust

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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.

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A chill has crept back into the automotive labor community of Toledo with a sneaky move on the part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to abolish 88 union truck driver positions.

The UAW and the various owners of the Toledo Jeep Assembly plant have enjoyed labor peace for 30 years — to the advantage of both the company and the employees and the Toledo community in general.

The UAW-Jeep partnership has been a historic experiment in cooperative and respectful labor relations.

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UAW 12 was the first union in the industry to accept a two-tier wage to help Chrysler stay afloat. The labor union made concessions in the late 1990s to keep Jeep in Toledo and Chrysler reciprocated by building a new plant.

But the “Pax Toledo” is threatened now.

Fiat has decided to close a Toledo transportation terminal that supplies the local Jeep assembly plant with auto parts and award that trucking work to a nonunion firm.

That’s Fiat’s right, as long as it complies with the contract it signed with UAW Local 12.

It appears the company took advantage of a period in which the union had some questionable leadership to get a waiver from the union on those 88 jobs.

Fiat should have known UAW Local 12 would not just stand by and see 88 union jobs handed over to a nonunion trucking firm without a fight.

Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, has said that by closing the terminal and bidding the work to outside firms, Chrysler is violating anti-outsourcing language in the contract, which can’t be waived as easily as was the case here.

Chrysler’s spokesman sidestepped that key point — that the jobs must be negotiated — and redirected her remarks to saying the company is working to find jobs for those displaced by the move. The company claims to have been in negotiations over the truck terminal for two years. But Mr. Baumhower learned the truck terminal was to be shut only recently — when the company posted its federal WARN Act notice of layoffs.

It may fall to the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether the waiver Fiat obtained was legal justification to transfer jobs from a union to a nonunion contractor.

Even if legal, it’s wrong. Trust has been lost in a community where trust has been hard won. Mr. Baumhower has every right to stand up for an agreement he thought he had, his members, and labor peace.

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