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GM, Lordstown Workers Talking

November 26, 1999

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) _ Union leaders will return to the bargaining table Monday after production workers at the General Motors Corp. plant rejected a tentative agreement.

The Lordstown plant, 13 miles northwest of Youngstown, is among GM’s largest in terms of employment. The assembly plant has a work force of about 5,300.

About 60 percent of the United Auto Workers members who voted late Wednesday rejected a four-year agreement.

Workers are concerned that work will slow down at the Lordstown plant because GM has said it won’t replace 440 workers who retired this year, said Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112. The company also plans to lay off 277 temporary employees on Dec. 11.

Graham, who supported the proposed contract, said he was disappointed by the results of the vote, which had a 95 percent turnout.

``We’ve been listening to our people and there was a lot of frustration,″ he said. ``We felt that if it did pass, it would pass by a very narrow margin, even though, overall, it was not a bad package.″

A message seeking comment with GM spokesman Kyle Johnson was not immediately returned.

Graham said the northeast Ohio plant needs a new contract because its future beyond 2004 is uncertain. GM intends to continue production of the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire at the Lordstown plant into 2004, when the versions of the cars for the 2005 model year will be made.

``For two years now, we’ve been told we’re in a good position to get a new product and nothing’s happened,″ he said. ``We need to have some kind of hope after 2005.″

Graham said union members are upset with the company’s plan to slow down the production line as a way to make up for its dwindling work force at the plant. The slowdown will drop the number of Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires the plants can produce, despite improved sales of both models in the 1999 model year.

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