DETROIT — UAW officials and workers at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant still hope that the company will reverse a decision next year to end production at the plant and possibly close it.
“What we can’t live with is this plant closing,” said Frank Stuglin, the UAW Region 1 director who oversees the plant. “This area can’t live with this plant closing. We have to keep up the fight and keep this plant open.”
Stuglin was among a handful of UAW officials Thursday at a “vigil” outside the factory, along with roughly 50-60 employees who gathered to show support for workers and their families.
In November, GM disclosed that the Detroit-Hamtramck factory was among five plants, including three assembly operations, that would end production next year and not be allocated new products. The plant’s roughly 1,500 workers would be placed on indefinite layoff or have to retire or transfer to another plant.
Stuglin, without naming her, called GM CEO Mary Barra a “Grinch” for the decision — possibly alluding to a social media meme that depicts Barra as the anti-Christmas creature.
“They couldn’t even come down here to face you guys and tell you. That’s how inconsiderate they are,” Stuglin said. “And that Grinch that’s on the river in that tower, she’s got to come down off that tower and talk to you.”
Mike Plater, chairman of UAW Local 22, which represents workers at the plant, said employee morale has been “somber” and “chaotic,” with families fearing they’ll have to transfer if the factory closes. He was optimistic that the union could possibly negotiate new product for the plant.
“With our institution, the UAW, we absolutely can get it done,” he said. “General Motors just has to sit down at the table with us.”
GM is set to end production of four nameplates at Detroit-Hamtramck by June 1, starting with the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Volt on March 1, followed by the Cadillac CT6 and Chevrolet Impala on June 1.
The threatened assembly plants all build cars, a market segment that continues to shrink across the industry.
GM has not said it would close the North American plants — including Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck — but has indicated they have not been allocated new product. Powertrain plants in Warren, Mich., and Baltimore don’t have products assigned after next year either.
Plants don’t necessarily close when they have no new products scheduled, but the moves put their future and jobs at risk heading into contract negotiations with the UAW in 2019 and Canada’s Unifor in 2020.
Detroit-Hamtramck’s efforts follow those of Lordstown Assembly, which was quick to organize a campaign with the local chamber of commerce called “Drive it Home Ohio.“ It was started to press GM to “support growing their investment” at the plant, rather than shutting it.
As part of the effort, more than 5,000 schoolchildren have written letters pressing Barra to keep production in Ohio.