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Published: Saturday, 6/15/2002

UAW ends strikes, wins concessions

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Johnson Controls, Inc., agreed to make it easier for the United Auto Workers to gain members at the parts-maker, ending a two-day strike that idled assembly at General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG, the union said.

The supplier agreed to recognize automatically the union at a Toledo suburban plant and to not interfere in union attempts to organize at 26 other plants employing 8,000 people, new UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said. The pact means the workers may be able to join the union by turning in a signed card, an easier process than a full election.

The strike at four Johnson Controls plants Wednesday and Thursday shut down four automaker assembly plants, including Toledo Jeep's factory that makes the popular Liberty.

The company agreed to settle contracts at three plants and to recognize the UAW at its factory in Northwood. The strike likely brought pressure on Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls from General Motors and Chrysler, who lost production on as many as 10,000 trucks, an analyst said.

“The UAW won, and clearly they won through their partners” at the major automakers, said Sean McAlinden, a labor consultant.

“JCI was the toughest, meanest dog on the block and it just got a new collar,” said Mr. McAlinden, of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

The deal could press other parts suppliers, such as Magna International, to make the same sort of concessions, he said.

With 2,300 Toledo workers who build the Jeep Liberty back on the job yesterday, a spokeswoman for Chrysler said the effects of the two-day production stoppage will be minimal and expects no problems filling orders.

“We'll be able to make it up,” Michele Tinson said from the firm's U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Assembly lines also began to move yesterday at three car plants in St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Shreveport, La., shut by parts shortages caused by a United Auto Workers strike against Johnson Controls.

“We're not strike-happy, but make no mistake about it, we're also not afraid to use a point of leverage we have to support our members and to support workers who want UAW representation,” Mr. Gettelfinger said.

Affected car plants make such popular vehicles as the GMC Envoy, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Dodge Ram pickup, and Dodge Caravan minivan. The strikes quickly affected auto production because of manufacturing strategies that shun parts-warehousing for as-needed deliveries.

The agreements were reached late Thursday night. Johnson Controls announced the settlements yesterday without comment. Initial details of the pacts, ratified late yesterday by workers at the three Johnson Controls plants, included a $1,500 signing bonus, wage increases of $3 an hour, health-care coverage, a 401(k) plan, a birthday paid holiday, supplemental unemployment benefits to provide for 90 percent of an employee's after-tax pay for 26 weeks, and it prohibits the firm from closing the three plants for the length of the contract, which was not immediately released.

In Northwood, where 155 workers make instrument panels for the Liberty, Johnson Controls agreed to recognize the UAW after a third-party verifies the authenticity of membership cards the union says it has obtained from 85 percent of workers.

Blade wire services contributed to this report.



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