Former factory employees in Lordstown are hopeful as national contract negotiations get underway between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union.
Talks began this week around a new four-year contract between the Detroit’s three automakers and the union, which represents 142,000 workers nationwide. The current contract will expire September 14.
Union president Gary Jones told Ford executives Monday that workers wanted a bigger share of the companies’ record profits, and that he wanted the companies to stop outsourcing jobs to countries with lower labor costs.
"We will protect our work, our jobs and our way of life," Jones said. "We expect an agreement that recognizes our contributions."
The union will begin discussions with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler on Tuesday. UAW Local 1112 president Dave Green said leaders of the national union told him they will do their best to get a product for the shuttered Lordstown plant.
“I know that’s going to be something that they’re talking about. I’m not giving up hope on those guys," Green said. "They’re very well-skilled negotiators. And my hope is that they can bring that product here and get some justice for our members and our community."
GM ended production of the Chevrolet Cruze compact car at Lordstown earlier this year. In May, President Trump announced a plan to sell the factory to Cincinnati electric truck company Workhorse, but a final deal has yet to be reached. Union members have expressed they would rather see GM add a new product to the plant instead, which would preserve workers' seniority and benefits.
More than 1,000 Lordstown workers have already accepted transfers to other GM facilities, Green said.
It’s possible the union could go on strike if negotiations fall apart. At a bargaining convention in March, Jones told delegates that the union is raising strike pay and said it would walk out if necessary.
Jones said members will do "whatever is necessary" to get a contract they deserve.