GM UAW janitors in Tennessee told to cross picket line if autoworkers strike

A local UAW leader has told janitorial workers at General Motors’ manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, to cross the picket line if GM hourly workers strike there.

Leadec Industrial Services workers are caught in the middle as the clock winds down to the midnight Saturday deadline for GM and the UAW to reach a tentative agreement for a new contract.

If the UAW does not reach an agreement with GM by deadline, the union can ask for an extension of the current contract and keep negotiating or order a strike against GM.

GM has hired Leadec to do its janitorial, grounds keeping and paint-shop housekeeping at the Spring Hill, Tennessee, facility. UAW Local 1853 represents both GM and Leadec workers.

A Leadec worker in Spring Hill told the Free Press that during a town-hall style meeting Tuesday, local UAW leaders told Leadec workers, “In the event of a strike, General Motors is requiring us to cross the picket line of our union brothers and sisters and come in and work. Every other amalgamated company at the Spring Hill manufacturing facility will get a layoff, but we will be required to cross and work.”

GM spokesman David Barnas said the company expects that, “In the event of a work stoppage by the UAW-GM department at any of our facilities, those employees not covered by the UAW-GM master agreement would come to work, unless otherwise notified.”

Other amalgamates that work at the Spring Hill plant include Ryder Logistics Management, which hauls parts around the plant, Magna seating and Adient seating, and American Food & Vending, which provides food for the cafeteria and vending machines.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said he was not familiar with Tennessee’s guidelines for layoff compensation, noting it differs for each state.

Rothenberg said, “At this time however, the UAW continues to negotiate, and if a strike were to occur the International would decide on matters such as strike pay. However keep in mind, negotiations continue at this time.”

On Thursday, the UAW local issued badges on a lanyard to at least 30 Leadec workers on its first shift, a worker who picked one up told the Free Press. The badges provide safe passage across the picket line, this worker said.

“We have been instructed to hold it up as we pass the picketers and they will not bother us,” said the worker. “I will probably stay home the first few days to see how it goes. Our contract says we can sympathize, with no disciplinary action, but also no pay.”

This worker said the UAW told Leadec employees they have until Sept. 17 to pick up the badges. Leadec employees are all full-time and most earn about $15 an hour, this worker said.

The UAW International did not issue the safe-passage badges, Rothenberg said. He directed the Free Press to Local 1853. Both a call and an email seeking comment from local president Tim Stannard were not returned.

The Leadec contract with the UAW said that the union recognizes the importance of providing GM with uninterrupted work. It says during the term of the contract, no employee will participate in a strike or sympathize with a strike. But its language also allows workers to honor a picket line.

“There is no repercussion if people honor the picket,” Rothenberg said.

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