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Mitsubishi, UAW Resume Talks

August 24, 2001

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) _ Talks between Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America and the United Auto Workers resumed Friday, hours after about 2,800 union workers began a strike at the company’s only North American auto plant.

Contract talks between Mitsubishi and UAW Local 2488 broke down around 1:15 a.m. and picketers were at the plant by 2 a.m. The UAW’s contract with the automaker expired at midnight Thursday.

``Both parties are hopeful for an early resolution of the issues,″ according to a joint statement issued Friday by Mitsubishi and the UAW.

Both sides had agreed not to comment publicly on the talks, which began in July.

About 3,200 workers, including about 2,800 UAW members, are employed at the Normal plant, which makes the Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Sebring and Mitsubishi Eclipse coupes, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible and the Mitsubishi Galant sedan.

In May, Local 2488 members approved a strike if negotiations failed. Local president Justin West said at the time that the vote was taken ``to give the company an idea of how organized and unified our members are.″

Issues remaining on the table Thursday included pay, benefits, and health and safety concerns, according to a telephone message left for Local 2488 members.

``Regretfully, the employer gave our members no other alternative but to withhold their labor,″ Nate Gooden, vice president and director of the UAW Transnational Department, said Friday in a written statement.

A statement issued by Mitsubishi said failure to reach an agreement before the contract expired ``in no way diminishes our 12-year history of partnership for the benefit of our employees.″

Hourly wages for production workers increased from about $19.96 to $22.35 during the last contract, which was approved in August 1998.

About two months after the contract was approved, Mitsubishi announced staff reductions. About 700 people, including 500 union members, accepted severance packages and left the company in the summer of 1999.

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