GM is forced to idle its Baltimore plant 'Some of the young guys clapped and cheered,' but others 'are worried'

Ohio strike is felt here

'Only enough parts to work about an hour when I came in'

March 13, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

General Motors Corp.'s van assembly plant in Southeast Baltimore stopped production at 4:42 yesterday afternoon, the latest victim of the eight-day strike against two brake plants in Dayton, Ohio, that threatens to halt all of GM's North American vehicle production.

"We had only enough parts for about 45 vans or to work about an hour when I came in at 3:30," said Darren Petty, 29, a second-shift worker installing exhaust hangers on motors moving along the assembly line.

"Some of the young guys clapped and cheered when the line shut down. It was a warm day and they were getting off. They weren't concerned. They think they are going to be back to work again by Thursday or Friday.

"But the people who have been around for a while, people like myself, are worried. We don't know how long this is going to last and we have house payments to make," said Mr. Petty, who recently bought a home in Highlandtown.

"There is going to be a big cut in our paychecks this week, and we are not sure if we will be eligible for unemployment.

"It's kind of scary. We support the union on strike, but I will be very happy to get back to work."

Mr. Petty said that as workers were walking out of the plant others began covering motors and van bodies with clear plastic to protect them until the assembly line starts up again.

The strike by 3,000 members of United Auto Workers Local 696 against the Delphi Chassis plants has forced shutdowns at 21 vehicle assembly plants and eight parts plants and layoffs of slightly more than 70,000 GM workers, including nearly 3,000 in Baltimore.

As second-shift workers at the Baltimore plant were making their way home yesterday, GM announced a glimmer of hope that a settlement might be getting nearer.

After several days of no formal talks, James Hagedon, spokesman for GM Delphi Chassis in Dayton, said last evening that the union had requested a 9 p.m. meeting with the company.

"I can't comment on what this means," said Mr. Hagedon. "We don't know whether or not they are going to bring a full negotiating team to the table." GM has 28 car and truck assembly plants in North America. Asked how long it would be before the company would be forced to halt all vehicle production, Gerald Holmes, a GM spokesman in Pontiac, Mich., responded: "Just a few more days."

The strike affects more than GM workers. A number of other companies in the metropolitan area that supply parts to the Broening Highway plant will be forced to alter production and may have to lay off workers.

One of these companies, Marada Industries Inc. in Westminster, was notified by GM to halt its shipments of structural components to the Broening Highway plant yesterday morning.

"We shipped three truckloads, but GM canceled two other shipments," Dan L. Quickel, a production supervisor at Marada, said yesterday.

Marada and at least two other suppliers, Johnson Controls Inc., a seat supplier in Belcamp, and Monarch Manufacturing Inc., a manufacturer of dashboards, also in Belcamp, have said they may be forced to lay off some of their own workers if the strike against GM is not settled by the end of the week.

According to union officials, the strike is over safety and job security. The union wants the company to hire 125 new workers and limit its purchases of parts from outside suppliers.

Even if the new talks lead to a quick settlement, it may take some time before the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans, made here, begin rolling off the assembly line again.

Tom Klipstine, a GM spokesman in Pontiac, said it has taken a week for some plants to use up parts in the pipeline and it would likely take just as long for the Dayton plants to replenish the supply line.

GM could also direct parts to plants where it wants to resume production immediately while leaving others idle until a full supply is available again. Harry "Skip" Wagner, a spokesman for the Baltimore plant, said about 200 salaried employees and about 400 maintenance workers will remain on the job.

Pub Date: 3/13/96

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