Vincent Vernuccio

Even other UAW officials saw pay cuts as the answer to saving the plant. Maurice “Mo” Davison, executive director of UAW Region 3, which includes Indianapolis, said that with the cuts, the factory could survive and the number of those employed could triple to 2,000. At the height of production, the 2.1-million-square-foot factory employed several thousand workers.

Norman addressed the concerns of pay cuts in an August 17 letter. “While I understand the sentiment of those employees who would rather transfer to another GM plant, our proposal would guarantee their GM transfer rights without having to close a facility,” the letter read. “Why then would any employees want to see the plant close?”

The actions of UAW Local 23 illustrate how unions helped bring Detroit automakers to their knees. Members of the local could have simply walked away, moved to other plants and been paid the same amount. They also could have stayed and accepted pay cuts with a bonus. Either option would have allowed a factory to remain open. But that wouldn’t have allowed for displays of bravado like that of UAW Local 23 bargaining chairman Gregory Clark, who told the Indianapolis Star, “The contract they offered us wasn’t a contract ...It just gutted everything we had come to know as a contract between employers and employees.”

So the union chose to close the plant. Most members of the local will now be allowed to transfer to other facilities anyway, but the toll on the local economy will linger. The plant pays $1.8 million a year to Marion County in property taxes and has a payroll of about $40 million. The potential workers who would have been hired had the plant remained open will now have a harder time finding new jobs.

It is no wonder some carmakers are forgoing the heavily unionized states in the Midwest and opening new plants in Southern right to work states. They don’t want to fall victim to the next such display of union muscle flexing.

Vincent Vernuccio

F. Vincent Vernuccio is Labor Policy Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.