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UAW Members Mixed On Strike Prospects

September 26, 1987

DETROIT (AP) _ Claude Murphy was called back to his job at General Motors Corp. last week, and while he’s happy to be back after a 2 1/2 -month layoff, he’s jittery about talk of a strike against the nation’s largest automaker.

″I’d rather keep working,″ said Murphy, 45, a worker at GM’s Cadillac Fleetwood plant in Detroit.

″If they go on strike, a single man can’t live on $100″ a week in strike benefits, said Murphy, who is among 1,500 hourly workers facing permanent furlough when the Fleetwood plant closes in December. ″Not with car payments, clothing, kids. In the winter time, the heating bill is another house payment.″

Also reluctant to strike are the 1,962 hourly workers who returned to work Sept. 14 at Arlington, Texas, after a four-month shutdown while the plant was retooled.

″They are trying to catch up on bills and pay their debts. They would certainly hate to see a strike,″ said United Auto Workers Local 276 president Buddy Stewart. ″But the young people at GM I’ve talked to are willing to do whatever it takes to get a reasonable settlement.″

The Arlington plant will take over production of the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham when the Fleetwood plant in Detroit closes, said Dan Race, a spokesman for GM’s Cadillac Motor Car Division.

Job security, wages, pensions, lack of worker bonuses and contracting work to companies outside the United States were among the issues on the minds of UAW members at GM.

Wages and benefits for union workers at GM average $24 an hour. The base wage for assemblers is $12.82 an hour, while skilled trades workers start at a base wage of $14.93 per hour.

GM’s three-year pact with the UAW expired Sept. 14 but has been indefinitely extended. No strike deadline has been set, and talks between the two sides are continuing on the subcommittee level.

The UAW is focusing on GM after agreeing on a tentative three-year contract last week with Ford Motor Co. It hopes to get a contract for its 335,000 GM members patterned after the Ford agreement, which covers some 100,000 workers at the No. 2 automaker.

The UAW successfully included a job security clause in its contract with Ford. But some union members said it may be difficult to reach a similar pact with GM, which plans to close nine plants and parts of two others by the end of 1988, laying off more than 29,000 workers.

″They’re going to have to do something on (job security) because they’re closing everything down and they’re going into other countries,″ said Bruce Guthridge, 57, a laborer at GM’s Pontiac engine plant. ″I’d like to see them keep everything in the country.″

The Ford-UAW contract includes an unprecedented level of job security attained by slowing attrition, restricting Ford’s ability to buy parts and cars from outside the company and reducing the number of workers who can be laid off for causes other than slow sales.

Ford has become highly profitable. But GM earned $1.9 billion in the first six months of the year, 14.2 percent less than in the first half of 1986.

Frank Dunlavey, a 15-year employee of GM’s Van Nuys, Calif., plant, said he’s confident workers can get the same wage and benefit package Ford employees received last week, despite GM’s financial troubles.

″I think we’ll get the same deal they got at Ford, although I do think GM is still going to close 11 plants like they’ve said they would,″ Dunlavey said. ″I’m not personally worried that there will be a strike. I think that now that Ford has settled, GM will be following closely in line.″

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