Mich. Mazda workers OK strike over shop issues, workloads

January 20, 1991|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

DETROIT -- Frustrated by a union contract they consider allows management too much latitude, United Auto Workers members at Mazda's Flat Rock, Mich., plant have authorized a strike when the contract expires March 3.

Nearly all of the plant's 2,900 UAW workers took part in voting last week, and 95 percent -- a big margin by UAW standards at Big Three plants -- voted to authorize a strike. UAW Local 3000 negotiated its first contract with Mazda in March 1988, when the plant had been operating just seven months, and when temporary, appointed officials were running the local.

When bargaining on a new contract opens Tuesday, the UAW will press for greater clout in such emotional shop-floor issues as job rotation, job design and workloads.

Tom McDonald, a Mazda spokesman, declined to comment other than to say he was optimistic that a strike could be avoided.

The UAW has sponsored workshops for Mazda members on strike strategies and tactics. But a strike now could be hard to win, UAW officials concede, because the plant has a 233-day supply of unsold Ford Probes and a 99-day supply of unsold Mazda MX-6s and 626s. A 65-day supply is considered typical.

Because of the slump, the Mazda assembly line will stop about 50 minutes early on each of two shifts beginning tomorrow. Workers will be assigned to training programs when the line shuts down.

Mazda has pledged to avoid layoffs for full-time UAW workers.

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