GM strike in Ohio hurts economy here Local plant lays off workers

suppliers feel ripple effect

September 01, 1992|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.

Maryland's struggling economy took several more hits yesterday as the strike at a General Motors Corp. parts plant in Ohio forced a halt in production at GM's minivan assembly plant here and layoffs at some local suppliers.

The assembly line at the Broening Highway plant, Baltimore's largest manufacturing employer, went quiet at 8:12 a.m. when workers ran out of door frame parts for the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans.

About 2,800 workers were laid off pending the end of the strike at GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant, which makes the door frame supplies needed at the local plant.

Within an hour, the Johnson Controls Inc. plant in Belcamp, which makes seats for the vans, ceased production and asked its 200 workers to accept voluntary layoffs.

By 11 a.m., the impact of the closing had spread to Monarch Industries Inc., a short distance from the Johnson Controls factory.

"We shut down at 11 and laid everyone off," said Steve Jones, manager of the 80-worker plant, which produces instrument panels, or -- boards, for the Astros and Safaris. "Everyone is on layoff until the strike ends and the [GM] Baltimore plant is up and running again."

The Baltimore area is not the only other victim of the Ohio strike. GM's Orion Township, Mich., plant halted production of Cadillac De Villes, Fleetwoods and Oldsmobile 88s and laid off 4,200 workers when it ran out of Lordstown-made steel body panels yesterday morning.

ZTC The Lordstown strike already had stopped production of GM's popular Saturn car, which is made at Spring Hill, Tenn., and of Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunbirds made at another Lordstown plant.

The five-day-old strike could idle thousands more workers and close seven more plants if it is not resolved by the end of the week, GM said yesterday.

If the strike lasts through the week, GM's van plants in Scarborough, Ontario, and Flint, Mich., likely would be the next to close. GM's Wentzville, Mo., plant, which builds the Pontiac Bonneville, Buick Park Avenue and Oldsmobile 88s, likely will run out of parts today, GM spokeswoman Laura Joseph said. Plants in Flint and Lansing, Mich, and Oklahoma City could be affected eventually.

Close to home, the effects of the strike were beginning to spread. William Beddow, manager of employee relations at Johnson Control, said that about half the workers on the first shift accepted the plant's invitation to go on layoff. He expected that half of the second-shift workers would do the same, reducing the work force to 100 from 200.

Those who remain, Mr. Beddow said, will clean and maintain the plant and do other projects.

He said the company was reluctant to lay off workers. But by asking for volunteers, it might be able to make the needed reduction by furloughing only those who want time off, even it it means their only income will be unemployment insurance checks, he said.

The GM workers laid off yesterday also will receive only unemployment benefits. They will not get 85 percent of their take-home pay, as provided for in their contract when the company orders a plant closing.

The ripple effect of layoffs could continue if the Baltimore plant remains idle next week.

Charles Wright, a spokesman for Milwaukee-based A. O. Smith Automotive Products Inc., which has a plant in Belcamp that makes engine frames for the minivan, said the company is monitoring the situation in Baltimore. Production at the 35-worker plant continued yesterday, but he could not say how long it would do so.

About half the production at Marada Industries Inc. plant in Westminster goes to the GM plant in Baltimore. Dan Quickel, assistant general manager, said the company has told workers it does not anticipate layoffs -- voluntary or mandatory -- until Sept. 8 at the earliest.

Mr. Quickel said the company would have to review the situation after the Labor Day holiday. He said the company released a half-dozen temporary workers.

When the strike will end is anybody's guess. John Frederick, vice president of the striking Local 1714 of the United Auto Workers, said progress was made over the weekend, "but the stumbling block is still

job security." He drew encouragement, however, from the fact that the sides continue to meet.

Linda Cook, a spokeswoman for GM, said "nothing has been resolved." She said she expected negotiations to continue today.

Terry Youngerman, a spokesman for the Baltimore plant, said "it would be two to three days at the best" before minivan production resumes once the strike is settled.

Rodney Trump, president of UAW Local 239 in Baltimore, said workers were not surprised when the plant closed yesterday.

The real shock came Friday when they were told of a likely shutdown, he said. Most workers were "pretty somber and concerned" as they left the plant yesterday, he said.

The closing was particularly disappointing for at least two GM workers who recently returned to work from a layoff.

Tom Garner and David Madrid thought their luck had changed last week when they were invited to start work at the Baltimore plant after being laid off from a GM plant in Kansas City more than two years ago.

They came to the plant for the first time yesterday. As they entered the building, they met a stream of workers on their way home.

"We walked in this morning and they said, 'No can do,' " Mr. Madrid said. "We have a job. But we have to wait until this thing is over."

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