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Published: Saturday, 8/31/2002

Idled auto workers sue UAW

The union that represents workers at DaimlerChrysler AG's Toledo Jeep plant is being sued for $33.5 million by 17 machine skilled repairmen who allege they were discriminated against in favor of other skilled tradesmen at the plant.

The lawsuit, filed this week in U..S District Court in Toledo, alleges Local 12 of the United Auto Workers and its Maumee-based regional headquarters discriminated against the machine repairmen in favor of millwrights and electricians. It resulted in the loss of pay and overtime, no training to be eligible for other jobs, being laid off, and being denied supplemental layoff benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

Thomas Sobecki, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the last straw happened when 45 machine repairmen, including nine from the complaint, were laid off last August and this month.

The suit claimed the union used its influence with DaimlerChrysler to ensure that the machine repairmen were laid off before the millwrights and electricians. Some of the workers who filed the lawsuit are former members of Local 4 of the Mechanical Educational Society of America, which merged in 1997 with UAW Local 12.

“The machine repairmen were hit in greatly disproportionate numbers than the other trades,” Mr. Sobecki said.

The workers have asked for back pay and compensation for lost benefits; $8.5 million in compensatory damages; $25 million in punitive damages; an order that the union immediately cease its failure to represent the machine repairmen, as well as attorney's fees and other relief. The case has been assigned to Judge James Carr.

Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

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