Saturday, May 18, 2019

GM Lordstown Plant Closing

When people are discouraged, prevented and/or excluded from serving in positions of power they often show an intense, even obsessive, interest in putting one of their own in the Big Seat, however it is defined. And the people who have one of their own in the Big Seat, often show an intense, even obsessive, interest in keeping that spot, even if they receive little to no material benefit from having one of "theirs" in the top spot. This is just human nature. I don't think it will ever truly change. 

However it continues to be worthwhile to point out over and over again that simply putting a black face in a high place or putting someone in charge who can wear skirts and heels instead of pants without changing the power structure and the nature of the economic relationship is ultimately not worthwhile-at least not worthwhile for anyone except the individual who is making the big money in the top spot. Mary Barra is the Chairman (Chairwoman?) and CEO of GM. 

She is also the first woman to hold that position at GM and any other global automaker. When she ascended to the spot this was heralded as a good thing for women executives, women employees, women in general and the nation in general. Barra makes $21 million/yr in salary. I am sure she has the stock options, deferred compensation, retirement plans, bonus incentives and all of the other benefits that any  major league executive in her position would receive.

Barra also oversaw the recent announced closing of the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio. This will devastate that community and increase the problems of opiate addiction, homelessness, economic inequality, job loss and other issues that plague American workers. The union contract GM signed apparently both forbade closing the planet and/or required additional worker benefits if the plant was closed.

Adding insult to injury Barra/GM announced that the plant would be "unallocated", a term no one ever heard of before and which appears to have been dreamed up by GM management and legal teams to allow GM to shirk specific contract language which addresses closed plant status.

Early in the morning on Nov. 26, 2018, Dave Green, the president of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers, which represents workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, received a call from the plant’s personnel director. Green needed to be at the plant at 9 a.m. for a meeting. The personnel director rarely called Green, and when he did, it was almost always bad news. Green got into his car — a silver Chevy Cruze — and sped toward the hulking 6.2-million-square-foot factory, which had manufactured nearly two million Cruzes since the car was introduced in 2011.

“Management walks in 15 minutes late,” Green recalled, “and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to unallocate the plant’ — that was it.”

Green had never heard the term before, but he soon found out that it meant his members would no longer have a car to build. The Cruze was finished, and G.M. had no plans to make anything else at Lordstown. Green followed the managers to the production floor, where they shut down the assembly line before repeating the same brief message to more than a thousand workers. “Some people started crying, and some people turned white as a ghost and looked like they were going to throw up,” Green said. “It felt like, ‘Oh, the end is coming.’ ”

"Unions aren’t just about making more money. It’s about having a seat at the table. It’s about having the ability to talk to your employer and be respected, having some dignity in work, having some dignity and respect in what you do.

People keep saying: “Well, I feel sorry for you. Your plant’s closed.” It ain’t closed! It’s unallocated! If the company would come out and tell us that the plant is closed, then I could process what I would think about my kids and where they’re going, and about my parents and how they’re feeling, and about what plant I could go to. But I can’t think that far ahead because I’m not in a position to leave. I can’t transfer out right now. I ran for this job 10 months ago, and I got elected. I’m going to leave now? I have to wait until all this plays out."

On that same day, Mary Barra, the chief executive of G.M., announced that the company would unallocate four other North American plants and cut roughly 6,000 unionized hourly positions and 8,000 salaried positions. 

The largest affected plants manufactured sedans, and sedans would no longer be a major part of G.M.’s domestic production; instead, the company would focus on building S.U.V.s and trucks, which generate much higher profits. 

Manufacturing trade publications like Industry Week heralded Barra’s “willingness to wield the ax,” while Wall Street investors cheered the shedding of the “legacy” costs — pensions, health insurance — associated with G.M.’s American workers. On the day of Barra’s announcement, the company’s stock closed nearly 5 percent higher.
Read the interactive article and photoessay here.

Recognizing that this sort of action impacts a lot of his voter base in the upper Midwest President Trump has been jawboning GM and now claims that Barra says that GM will sell the "unallocated" plant to an electric car manufacturer. The problem is that the new manufacturer is not exactly profitable and won't need the number of workers that were employed at the GM plant. The UAW is also seeking relief in court against GM's sneaky underhanded tactic of closing a plant by "unallocating" it instead of just closing it. I don't know how all this will end up but it's a safe bet that the worker will get it in the neck or some other unpleasant place while the ownership, management and lawyers get paid.

But getting back to my first point is really a victory for women if one woman reaches the heights of corporate America and then proceeds to damage the life prospects of thousands of other women because of the imperatives of post-industrial capitalism? What difference does it make if a CEO has XY chromosomes or XX chromosomes if all CEO's behave in the exact same manner?
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