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IW 06

USA

Delphi workers at Ohio plant authorize strike

 

DETROIT - Members of Delphi Corp.'s second-largest union have voted to authorize a strike if a bankruptcy judge decides to cancel the auto supplier's labor contracts, a union leader said on Friday.

The International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America at a Delphi suspension parts plant in the Dayton, Ohio, suburb of Kettering. Local 755, which represents about 1,000 Delphi employees, was the first to vote.

"It's the first time the membership as a whole was heard, and it was heard unanimously that if you take 60 percent of my wages and you take my health care so I can't take care of my family and you take away my pension, we'll strike you," local shop chairman Keith Bailey said. "How many people are going to care about Delphi when their homes are being foreclosed?"

The Communications Workers' industrial division, which represents 25 percent of Delphi's 34,000 hourly workers, told local unions two weeks ago that they could begin holding votes to authorize a strike, spokeswoman Lauren Asplen said. The union hasn't set a deadline when voting must be completed.

IUE Local 717 in Warren, Ohio, which is holding a rally for Delphi workers this weekend, said it plans to hold a strike vote March 12.

A Delphi spokeswoman said Friday that the company won't comment on the votes.

Delphi employs about 13,000 workers in Ohio at plants in the Dayton, Warren, Columbus and Sandusky areas.

Asplen said the votes don't mean the union will strike, but they leave the option open while the union continues to negotiate with Delphi. The Troy-based company, which filed for bankruptcy in October, wants its unions to agree to lower wages and benefits.

"We're not taking any possible action off the table," Asplen said. "We need to be prepared."

A prolonged strike against Delphi, the nation's largest auto supplier, could devastate the company and its largest customer, General Motors Corp., which already is reeling from falling U.S. sales and its own high labor costs.

But a strike isn't imminent. Unions can't strike under Delphi's current contracts, which will remain in effect unless a bankruptcy court judge throws them out.

Delphi has threatened to ask a judge to void its contracts on March 31 if it fails to reach an agreement with GM and its unions to lower its labor costs. If Delphi files a motion on that date, a hearing on the motion is scheduled for May 8. The judge would then decide within 30 days whether to cancel the contracts.

So far, the Communications Workers union's industrial division is the only one of Delphi's six unions to go ahead with strike authorization votes.

The United Auto Workers, which represents the vast majority of Delphi's hourly workers, hasn't scheduled a vote, spokesman Roger Kerson said Thursday, although UAW leaders have threatened to strike if the contracts are canceled.

The United Steelworkers, which represents 1,000 Delphi workers, said it's too early to conduct a strike vote, spokesman Wayne Ranick said. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - which represent around 186 workers combined - also haven't scheduled votes, according to officials at those unions.

Delphi's situation is similar to that of Tower Automotive Inc., a supplier based in Novi. Hourly workers at Tower voted in January to authorize a strike if a bankruptcy court judge grants Tower's request to cancel its labor agreements. The judge is scheduled to consider Tower's request Monday.

Associated Press