April 6, 1997 in Nation/World

Strike Could Be Long One At Gm’s Cutlass Plant

Associated Press

Striking autoworkers stood vigil outside a General Motors assembly plant Saturday and predicted the first walkout in the plant’s 18-year history could be a long one.

“No one wants a strike,” said autoworker Rex Pilkington.

“But if this is what we’ve got to do, this is what we’ve got to do.”

About 3,500 members of the United Auto Workers went on strike Friday night at the plant, which makes two of GM’s most popular cars, the new Chevrolet Malibu and the Oldsmobile Cutlass.

The Malibu is also made in Wilmington, Del.; the Cutlass is only made in Oklahoma City.

GM hopes the Malibu will help it cut into the intermediate-sized market.

GM and the UAW signed a national contract in December, but hourly workers in Oklahoma City have gone without a local contract since September.

Negotiations resumed Saturday morning, said Yvonne Smith, vice president of the UAW local. The key issues are manpower, safety and the outsourcing of assembly work to other plants, including some outside the United States.

Autoworkers said conditions at the plant have created a labor crunch and increased work-related injuries.

“We have a lot of problems inside the plant with manpower, excessive overtime and ergonomic issues,” said Russell Dearing, an assembly line worker for 18 years.

A recorded message at the automaker’s headquarters in Detroit Saturday said: “GM will continue to bargain in good faith toward an agreement that best serves all of our employees and recognizes the need to provide high-quality, cost-competitive products to our customers.”

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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