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UAW Calls To Shut Down ‘Most Profitable Plant In The Country’

Illustration for article titled UAW Calls To Shut Down ‘Most Profitable Plant In The Country’
Photo: GM
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American car companies love to talk about how seriously they’re taking coronavirus precautions. We’ll see that put to the test when their most plant that churns out Escalades and other ultra-profitable SUVs is called into question. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Wednesday, June 1, 2020.

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1st Gear: Coronavirus Outbreak Around Arlington Assembly

With a coronavirus outbreak in the area, it would make sense to put a local auto manufacturing plant on pause. The only catch here is that the plant in question is Arlington Assembly, an absolute gold mine for General Motors. The bargaining committee for UAW Local 276 has their work cut out for them.

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Here’s the main news, as the Freep explains:

The local union at one of General Motors largest plants has asked the company to shut it down because of a growing outbreak of coronavirus cases in the area.

UAW Local 276, representing the nearly 5,000 workers at GM’s Arlington Assembly plant in Texas, notified members that it made the request to the company Monday in a notice that also was posted on the local’s web page Tuesday morning.

“Due to the most recent data on the COVID-19 outbreak, the Bargaining Committee has asked General Motors to shut down Arlington Assembly until the curve is flattened for the benefit and well-being of our members. Every day we are setting new records in the number of people who are testing positive in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” the post from the shop chairperson read.

[...]

GM builds its highly profitable Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban full-size SUVs at Arlington. It is the most profitable plant in the country, said John McElroy, host at Autoline.tv.

GM loves safety and its workers. But does it love them more than it loves making fat profits off of GMC Yukons? We will see.

2nd Gear: Half Of Covid Tests Positive In Mexico

We’ve been covering how the auto industry in America relies heavily on parts suppliers in Mexico, how the American auto industry pressured Mexico to reopen as early as possible, and how Mexico’s rush to reopen had little in the way of firm checks on safety.

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And now, as Bloomberg reports, half of all Coronavirus tests in the country are coming back positive, the highest rate in the world:

As nations around the world try to get their economies humming again, the number of coronavirus tests coming back positive has turned into the metric to watch. Five percent is the threshold to reopen safely. Ten percent is troubling, twenty percent outrageous.

In Mexico, it stands at 50%.

[...]

Throughout the pandemic, Mexico and parts of Latin America have reported positivity rates that dwarf anything seen from China to the U.S., including new trouble spots like Arizona and Texas. With half of all tests coming back positive, Mexico ties only Bolivia for title of the world’s highest rate. In Argentina and Chile, almost 3 out of every 10 exams lead to a Covid-19 diagnosis. And in Brazil, where 1.4 million people have been infected, no one knows for sure because the government doesn’t release that data.

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To reiterate on a previous point, I would not be stoked to be showing up to work today to be making Escalades just over the border in Texas.

3rd Gear: VW Abandons New Factory Amid Coronavirus

Meanwhile in Turkey, VW is giving up entirely on building a new assembly plant after Coronavirus finished what American foreign policy started, as Bloomberg reports:

Volkswagen AG canceled plans to build a car factory in Turkey after the coronavirus pandemic jolted auto markets.

The slump in global car demand makes adding more capacity “unnecessary from today’s perspective,” Volkswagen said Wednesday in an emailed statement. The German company will instead produce new cars at existing sites, it said.

The world’s largest automaker put the project on hold last year after political tensions in the region escalated following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The Covid-19 outbreak added to obstacles as sales tanked and the exact shape of a potential recovery remains unclear.

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The global implications of Coronavirus seem to be growing every day.

4th Gear: Consumer Advocates Not Happy About Your Car’s Data

I don’t know how much hope to ever put into consumer advocacy groups, but there’s a new one out there called the Consumer Access to Repair Coalition and it is concerned about the data that your car collects on you being used against you. Automotive News explains:

The Consumer Access to Repair Coalition includes Allstate, the Automotive Body Parts Association, the Certified Automotive Parts Association and LKQ Corp.

In the letter, obtained by Automotive News, the coalition asked Congress to reject the five-year federal preemption on state actions regarding telematics data-sharing that the Alliance for Automotive Innovation requested in June.

The alliance is made up of automakers, suppliers, auto-related technology companies and trade associations. In a letter last month, it said that sharing vehicle data could lead to dangerous misuse, including “by stalkers to prey on their victims.” The organization also said a Massachusetts ballot initiative to allow outside parties access to vehicle data would “pose cybersecurity, personal safety, and privacy risks to the owner of the vehicle” and “endanger others on the nation’s roadways.”

The organization added that such data is not needed for repairs.

“There is no scenario in which real-time, remote access by third parties would be necessary to diagnose or repair a vehicle,” the organization said.

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I wish CARC (?) the best.

5th Gear: News From An Alternate Universe In Which Trains

Americans I am happy to report that intercity trains across the country will soon be leaving every half hour. Oh, no, not this country. They’ll be crisscrossing Germany every half hour. Sorry to get your hopes up. Germany’s Der Spiegel has the full story:

By 2030, the railways in Germany are to become significantly more punctual, faster and also more attractive in remote areas. To achieve this goal, industry associations, trade unions and the federal government have decided on a so-called rail pact. The number of passengers is to be doubled within ten years and the proportion of rail freight transport is to rise to 25 percent.

[...]

The Germany clock is a central component of the pact: long-distance trains are supposed to run every half hour on the main lines. This rhythm is introduced between Hamburg and Berlin in December. In addition, connections should be better coordinated to reduce waiting times. In this way, rural regions are to be better connected.

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Also, there’s a new bullet train in Japan. That all seems nice.

Reverse: Postwar America Ended In 2005

Via History:

The last Thunderbird, Ford Motor Company’s iconic sports car, emerges from a Ford factory in Wixom, Michigan on July 1, 2005.

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Neutral: Would Your Work Shut Down If There Was A Local Outbreak?

Mine hasn’t! But I can just work from home, which has been safe thus far. Do you think your workplace would make the call?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

GM loves safety and its workers. But does it love them more than it loves making fat profits off of GMC Yukons? We will see.

This is a tricky situation, because if you decide to close and then as a result can’t afford to pay your employees anymore, then you’re screwing them either way. Honestly the best thing they could probably do would be to try to continue to work as safely as possible, likely at a reduced line rate and headcount and possibly allow people to voluntarily take unpaid leave if they aren’t comfortable working.