Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Contrasting Styles Point to Differences in Auto Labor Talks

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Contrasting Styles Point to Differences in Auto Labor Talks

Article excerpt

DETROIT -- Basil Hargrove, the president of the Canadian Automobile Workers union, shook his fist and bellowed at a meeting last Friday in Toronto with several hundred cheering union officials, describing all the disputes that had led to the current strike against General Motors. He wore a dark blue wool suit with a denim shirt and a deep blue tie covered with dice, playing cards and even a slot machine.

"We're rolling the dice here with General Motors," he said Monday.

Stephen Yokich, the dapper president of the United Automobile Workers, keeps his cards close to the vest. He has told union members and even most union officials almost nothing about this autumn's labor talks, including his series of secret meetings with the chairmen of each of the Big Three auto companies. Found only once by reporters during negotiations at Ford Motor Co., he scurried into an executive elevator while glaring wordlessly at his questioners. The contrasting personal styles of Yokich and Hargrove are among the many differences between auto industry labor talks this autumn in Canada and in the United States. While the two union leaders consult each other frequently, they are pursuing different strategies with different results. Yokich has already concluded three-year labor contracts with Ford and Chrysler Corp., and was close to a deal with GM until the strike in Canada slowed those negotiations. Yokich has been able to reach deals without even threatening a strike. He has been able to make a variety of compromises, like allowing lower wages for workers in any new auto parts factories, partly because he has given no details to the public or his union members this year about what he is trying to achieve. Hargrove, who goes by the nickname "Buzz," concluded a three-year labor contract last month with Chrysler just 90 minutes before a threatened national strike, and he plans to threaten Ford with a strike soon if it does not negotiate a deal. The Canadian leader has told his union members and the public what he is demanding of GM, and insists that the demands are not negotiable. Partly as a result, the Canadian union is now in the fifth day of a strike by 21,000 workers against GM, and Hargrove said Monday that he was "not optimistic at all" that the strike would end this week. GM managers temporarily laid off 1,050 of the 4,000 workers at an engine factory near Buffalo, N.Y., Monday and told 800 of the 5,500 workers at a transmission factory in Ypsilanti, Mich., that Monday was their last day of work until the Canadian strike ends. The engine factory layoffs showed how tightly integrated GM's North American operations have become: the factory had enough parts to keep building engines but ran out of the special racks that protect the engines during shipment to assembly plants. Many of the racks are stuck in a strike-bound Canadian factory. GM and union officials predict that some of the company's vast assembly plants in the United States may begin to run out of parts and close later this week. Some labor relations experts are critical of Hargrove's style, saying that it makes a compromise more difficult. "Sometimes you just get forced into a strike when you use those kinds of tactics," said Dale G. …

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