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Impact of GM Strike Spreads Beyond Auto Plants

March 13, 1996

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ In the shadow of an idled GM truck plant Tuesday, Jay Harbin looked out over the empty seats at his restaurant.

``It kills our lunch business,″ he complained.

A strike by 2,700 workers at two General Motors Corp. brake factories has idled about 87,000 employees since it began eight days ago. It has forced the giant automaker to shut down more than half its assembly plants and slow or close 15 percent of its parts factories.

The work stoppage at the Delphi Chassis brake plants also is sending out ripples, from the contractors that provide parts to GM plants to the coffee shops that rely on autoworkers.

Harbin’s restaurant is next to GM’s truck assembly plant in suburban Moraine, which sent its 4,000 workers home Saturday because of the strike.

The restaurant is usually filled with GM workers at lunchtime.

``I don’t like it,″ Harbin said. ``When you’ve got two people sitting in the bar, how can you be happy?″

By Tuesday, GM had been forced to shut down 21 of 29 North American assembly plants and nine parts plants. Work at another 24 of the roughly 200 GM parts plants in North America had been scaled back, with some workers being sent home.

Negotiators agreed to meet for talks late Tuesday for the first time in several days. ``The union requested the meeting,″ said Delphi Chassis spokesman Jim Hagedon.

Calls to United Auto Workers Local 696, which represents the striking workers, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The strike also threatened to affect independent businesses that sell parts to GM.

More than 1,600 parts makers deal directly with GM. They have more than 3,000 manufacturing facilities, with 1.1 million employees, according to ELM International, an auto-supplier consultant.

VarityKelsey-Hayes expects the strike to affect the 230 workers who make anti-lock brakes for GM at a plant in Fowlerville, Mich., company spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said.

The strike won’t affect the nation’s economy unless it continues into next month, said Paul Ballew, chief economist for J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing information firm. GM, the world’s largest automaker, earned $6.9 billion last year.

And a short strike really won’t hurt GM because it should be able to make up most of the lost production, Ballew and other analysts said.

According to Ward’s Automotive Reports, GM had an 82-day supply of cars at the end of February and a 79-day supply of trucks. Generally, a 60-day supply is considered ideal.

But for some GM models, such as large sport-utility vehicles and the fast-selling Saturns, inventories were already tight. The supply of Saturns at the end of February was 49 days and that of GMC Yukons only 26 days, according to Ward’s.

The major issue in the strike is out-sourcing, the production of parts by outside plants or companies. The union fears out-sourcing could permanently cut jobs at the two Dayton plants, which supply brake systems and parts to nearly all of GM’s assembly plants.

The union also complained about staffing levels it says have caused overtime and prevented workers from completing safety training.

``I think that because of all the out-sourcing that they’ve done it’s about time that we stand up and say it’s enough,″ said Dee Byers, a worker at a GM assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan. ``We need to fight for our jobs.″

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