The C8 Corvette is built at General Motors’ Bowling Green Assembly Plant, and the workforce there — members of UAW Local 2164 — have almost unanimously rejected the manufacturer’s latest contract offer.
According to the Bowling Green Daily News, 98 percent of the factory’s production workers and 97 percent of its skilled trades workers voted against GM’s most recent proposal for failing to meet the union’s demands. The big issue is GM’s reliance on outsourcing a range of jobs to non-union labor, including “3D printing, maintenance work and striping,” per the newspaper’s report. Negotiating better terms for sanitation and health and safety rank among the union’s other stated priorities.
Local 2164 president Brian Ferrett told the Bowling Green Daily News that subcontracting is a sticking point for many employees working on Chevrolet’s flagship, some of whom found themselves there after GM closed other facilities. The automaker shuttered four U.S. plants in 2019, including Lordstown Assembly, which was recently purchased by Foxconn. From the article:
The union asked for language in the local contract committing the company to “future products and investments” at the plant and to additional UAW work.
Ferrett believes workers at a plant that produces a sports car that has earned numerous accolades and is in great demand should get some guarantees about their future.
“We always request a guarantee, but it’s not there yet,” he said. “Over the last 20 years all GM has pushed for and achieved in most cases is for a third party to do our work at a lower wage.”
GM’s previous contract with Local 2164 expired two years ago. According to Local 2164 shop chairman Jason Watson, that’s not unusual among GM’s factories. The company has attempted to justify increased subcontracting in the past by arguing that taking on more lower-paid temporary workers ensures stable compensation and job security for its unionized workforce. It’s a great tactic to allay the fears of union members while taking strength in numbers away from them.
Watson says that although a strike isn’t imminent — there’s a process Local 2164 must go through first at the UAW’s regional and national levels — its members have already approved one should negotiations with GM disintegrate.
For now, Watson said, “we’ll make sure our bargaining committee gathers membership concerns. We’ll continue to have meetings with management on these issues and make some attempt to continue negotiations.”
GM responded in much the same manner.
“We are disappointed that UAW Local 2164 voted down the local contract. We will continue to meet with the local union to understand the vote and will continue to negotiate. Our goal is to reach an agreement that benefits employees and positions our business to be competitive as we move forward.”
After the nationwide GM-UAW strike of 2019, the ongoing semiconductor shortage and a tornado of all things, this is but another chapter in what’s been a tumultuous few years for the Bowling Green facility.