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Woman Hailed as Hero For Rejecting Non-Union Honda

August 15, 1990

RISINGSUN, Ohio (AP) _ Because of the car she wouldn’t take, Pamela Richards has just picked up one free set of wheels and is about to get another.

The 39-year-old auto parts worker and member of the United Auto Workers became a hero of the union movement earlier this month for turning down a $17,600 Honda Accord on a game show because it was made at a non-union factory.

The remark was deleted when the taped Ohio Lottery program aired a night later, but word got around.

″The phone just keeps on ringing. I’ve had hundreds of people call me, telling me that they didn’t have the right to delete the reason why I didn’t accept the Honda,″ she said from her home about 30 miles from Toledo.

The 23-year employee of Toledo Precision Machining, a Chrysler Corp. subsidiary, also got a letter from Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca commending her.

And a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership flew Mrs. Richards and a daughter to Huntington, W.Va. - where they stayed at the home of a company vice president - to pick up on Tuesday a 1990 Chrysler Imperial to use for a year.

″She stood her ground and refused to accept that Honda. That takes a lot of character,″ said Frank Horney, president of Huntington Chrysler-Plymou th Inc.He said he first offered her a Plymouth Acclaim, valued at up to $14,000, but then thought about what she did and decided she ″deserves the best.″

Later this week, she will get another vehicle, from the AFL-CIO. She said the labor federation offered to fly her to Washington to receive a new Dodge Dakota.

″They asked me what kind of truck I wanted and even wanted to know what color I liked,″ she said. ″I drive a Dodge truck now. I buy what I build.″

Rex Hardesty, a spokesman for the 14.2-million-member AFL-CIO, said the labor federation is trying to show that ″that’s the point of view of a lot of people in this country, and they can’t get their message out.″

Mrs. Richards was among four contestants competing for cash and Ohio-made prizes on the show taped Aug. 3.

When her turn came to choose from 24 boxes containing cash and prizes, she picked one that revealed she had won an Accord made in Marysville. The UAW has tried for years without success to organize employees at Honda’s Maryville plants.

She had the choice of accepting the car and ending her participation or taking the cash prize in the same box and continuing.

″I don’t want that Honda. I am union,″ she said, accepting instead the cash prize of $1,000. Ultimately, she won $6,400.

″I just spoke my mind,″ she said afterward. ″The union has been real good to me. Taking the car would not have been the right thing to do.″

After the show aired - without her remark - Ohio Lottery Director Ronald Nabakowski called Mrs. Richards and apologized for what he called ″an overzealous attempt to avoid controversy″ on the part of program staffers.

James Reed, an account supervisor at Marcus Advertising, the program’s producer, defended the editing, saying companies often provide prizes at deep discounts.

Honda of America Inc. spokesman Roger Lambert said of Mrs. Richards’ stand: ″We certainly respect her wishes. ″It’s a personal choice she made.″

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