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UAW Demonstrates Outside Chrysler Headquarters

November 21, 1989

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) _ Hundreds of United Auto Workers union members chanting ″Lee lies″ paraded outside Chrysler Corp. headquarters Tuesday to protest the closing of a car assembly plant.

Chrysler earlier this month announced it would halt production of Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon subcompact cars at its Jefferson Avenue plant in early February and lay off about 1,700 workers.

Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca on Monday said further plant closings may occur because of weak sales.

″This gives Lee Iacocca a black eye with his credibility,″ said Don Petty, chief steward of UAW Local 1264 at a Chrysler plant in Sterling Heights.

About 500 protesters marched behind a banner reading ″Iacocca lied again.″ Among other signs was one picturing Iacocca as a chicken smoking a cigar above a caption reading, ″Mr. No Show in Louisville.″

Iacocca has declined to attend the UAW’s meeting next week in Kentucky, the first time since 1986 he won’t appear. Two Chrysler executives are scheduled to replace Iacocca.

The rally also gave indications that national contract negotiations, which open next summer, could be acrimonious. UAW contracts with Chrysler, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. expire on Sept. 14, 1990.

″This is not just a rally for the Jefferson closing,″ said Aaron Taylor, president of UAW Local 7 at the Jefferson Avenue plant.

Workers from Syracuse, N.Y., and Chrysler’s Acustar plant in Huntsville, Ala., joined Detroit-area workers at the march.

″It’s a scary feeling,″ said Nancy Adams, who was laid off a few weeks ago from Chrysler’s transmission plant in Syracuse and remains a member of Local 624.

The company said the Jefferson Avenue plant closing is permitted under its contract, which allows for shutdowns due to slow sales. Omni and Horizon sales have been slumping.

But union officials have said the move violates local and national contracts and they are angry they were not notified about the action before it appeared in the media.

UAW Vice President Stan Marshall, head of the union’s Chrysler Department, said relations between the union and Chrysler are strained because of the plant closing and Iacocca’s statement in Washington Monday that others could follow.

UAW Region 1 Director Bob Lent said the conflict could continue into contract negotiations.

Said Marshall: ″I think that they are the ones trying to set the atmosphere by Lee going out there and making all kinds of statements, (like) well, we might have to close other assembly plants and everything.″

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