Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Arbitrator to Decide Legality of GM Strikes

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Arbitrator to Decide Legality of GM Strikes

Article excerpt

FLINT, Mich. -- The United Auto Workers agreed Wednesday to let an independent arbitrator decide whether its strikes against General Motors are legal under the UAW-GM contract.

In light of that, federal District Judge Paul V. Gadola said he would hold the UAW and GM to their word to schedule a hearing with the arbitrator soon. He asked the parties to return to his courtroom Tuesday to report on what progress they've made toward scheduling a meeting with the arbitrator.

GM's hired lawyer, Andrew Kramer of Washington, asked the court to rule on its motion ordering expedited arbitration, saying he feared the union was not committed to meeting with the arbitrator as soon as possible.

Gadola said he would retain jurisdiction, but it didn't seem like he would intervene in the strike at this time.

The judge said there was no indication that the union had engaged in foot dragging so far, as GM's attorney alleged.

"It seems to me that in the public interest ... this ought to proceed without delay," Gadola said.

Frank Jaworski, general counsel for GM, said that the company was pleased that the judge retained jurisdiction and that the company is committed to ending the strike at the bargaining table.

He said GM would be contacting the arbitrator, Thomas Roberts of California, on Thursday. He declined to answer any questions.

GM lawyers have said that if they are successful and an arbitrator rules the strikes illegal, the company likely will seek monetary damages and an order forcing the 9,200 workers back into the plants. Presumably, the issues in the strikes would then go before an arbitrator.

At the heart of the debate is a dispute about the issues over which the strikes were called.

Under the GM-UAW national contract signed in 1996, the union may call a strike only over a limited number of issues. …

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