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Lordstown Plant Is Idle, but It Hovers Over G.M. Strike Talks

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Lordstown Plant Is Idle, but It Hovers Over G.M. Strike Talks

In its talks with the impressive United Auto Workers union, General Motors has put a seemingly tempting offer on the table: it has proposed building a new factory in Ohio to produce batteries for some of the one million electric cars it expects to sell globally by 2026.

The factory would be near the Lordstown factory, where G.M. stopped making cars in March. This would create several hundred jobs in the affected region and give the union a foothold in the sector's transition to electric vehicles.

But in other ways, the supply illustrates the technological and economic changes that have left manufacturing workers in the United States worried about their declining living standards and prospects.

According to people familiar with the draft offerings, the factory would probably pay about $ 17 an hour, well below the $ 31 an hour many assembly workers earned in Lordstown. The operation would be under a separate contract. And the workforce would be much smaller than the more than 3,000 who ever assembled the Chevrolet Cruze there.

"Any new jobs will help the economy here, but they are not the same jobs," said Darlene Maddox, 48, of the UN. member picket at Lordstown closed factory on Tuesday. "It's a lower salary. A battery factory is good, but it won't help all the people from Lordstown who have been expelled."

Technically, G.M. did not close the Lordstown factory, but simply did not allocate a vehicle to be built there. The company says it plans to sell the factory for use by an incipient electric truck manufacturer. Still, its idling has become a hot spot, politically pressuring GM. President Trump, as well as Democratic politicians. And the reopening of Lordstown is becoming a rallying cry for union rankings, fueling militancy that has ended in pickets.

The strike, the first national strike against G.M. since 2007, enters its tenth day on Wednesday with both sides disagreeing on a number of issues, people familiar with the talks said.

In a new contract, G.M. hopes to limit increases in wages and health care costs. The union wants the company to reopen idle mills, add production in the United States and raise the wages of temporary workers and contractors in recent years. Many earn $ 10 to $ 14 an hour less than the highest rate due to a two-tier structure imposed a decade ago when the industry was reeling.

The strike effect continues to grow. G.M. Dealers say they have plenty of cars and trucks in stock, but analysts estimate the company is losing tens of millions of dollars a day. Starting this week, workers will receive $ 250 a week in US strike payment. The union is also providing assistance with health care costs and insurance premiums, but the lack of regular salaries may begin to diminish. And with idle assembly lines, G.M. laid off several thousand workers at its Canadian factories, whose work is tightly integrated with the American factories.

G.M. said his pre-strike offer included a $ 7 billion investment in factories in the United States, with some of the funds coming from joint venture partners. He said the investment would create about 2,700 new union jobs and save another 2,700 from elimination.

The Lordstown factory was stalled because it was making a small car that few consumers wanted to buy. When operations ceased, it employed about 1,400. G.M. said Tuesday that 1,381 former Lordstown workers were relocated to other factories that make trucks and SUVs.

Maddox is one of them. She recently moved to the Lansing, Michigan area with her two children and began working at a nightclub. plant manufacture S.U.V.s. Still, it's been difficult because her ex-husband, who also worked at the Lordstown factory, was relocated to Spring Hill, Tenn.

"I'm still in shock," she said.

The proposal to build a battery factory near Lordstown in the Mahoning Valley, Ohio, between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, fits G.M's plan to introduce 20 battery-powered vehicles by 2023. Most automakers are following suit. Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and others plan to add dozens of electric models to the car and truck lines in the coming years, anticipating a gradual transition away from internal combustion engines.

A shift from batteries to gasoline would reduce carbon emissions, but could also affect the number, quality and location of jobs in the auto industry. Electric vehicles require far fewer parts than traditional automobiles and can be assembled with fewer workers. According to a report issued by U.A.W. This year, an internal combustion engine has more than 100 parts, while the electric motor of a Chevrolet Bolt has three.

Because electric vehicles lack transmission, do not require exhaust or fuel systems and have much simpler engines, an increase in sales of battery-powered models "could have a negative impact on employment levels at factories that manufacture these components," he says. the report.

Those familiar with the contract negotiations said, however, that the battery factory proposal was still being considered. Elements of the plan were reported by Bloomberg and other news organizations.

The proposal would give to the US. a place in the production of batteries.

The $ 17 per hour salary is about the rate paid to workers at Tesla's giant non-union battery factory in Nevada. It is also in line with the salaries that Nissan, Toyota, BMW and other foreign automakers pay at non-union factories in the southern states.

Among impressive workers, the prospect of fewer jobs and lower wages is a concern, and union leaders have vowed to fight for a solid future. "We have to protect these jobs for the next generation," David Green, president of U.A.W. Location 112 in Lordstown, said in a text message.

Tina Cunningham, another worker on the Lordstown picket line, said she didn't like the idea of ​​GM's battery factory, but said there might be no better alternative. "A battery factory is unacceptable," she said. But "if they set up a battery factory with union jobs, I will accept them."

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