Turner expresses ‘deep concern’ about Fuyao-UAW vote

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, expressing concerns about an upcoming unionization vote at Fuyao Glass America, said in a recent open letter that the United Auto Workers — the union trying to organize the Fuyao plant — played a distinct role in the closure of that plant when it was still a General Motors facility almost a decade ago.

That’s a role neither GM nor the UAW have ever publicly acknowledged, and the UAW is denying it now.

Rich Rankin, director of the UAW region that includes the Dayton area, said Turner’s letter is “unfair” to the UAW.

“We never negotiate to close plants,” Rankin said.

In an open letter released Wednesday, Turner touches on the history of the plant, where Fuyao today has 2,000 workers.

Fuyao is located in what once was a General Motors SUV assembly site. Before it was closed in late 2008, workers there were represented by the IUE-CWA. At the time, GM-Moraine was the only GM plant represented by the IUE-CWA.

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In years past, auto industry observers have wondered whether the plant’s status as an IUE-represented facility worked against it.

In a 2012 Wall Street Journal article, for example, the newspaper said in negotiations between the UAW and GM more than a year after the Moraine plant closed,  Moraine's 2,500 laid-off workers were barred from transferring to other plants, “locking them out of the industry's rebound.”

“Many in our community remember the Moraine facility was once a thriving GM facility and was shut down because of a deal by GM and the UAW,” Turner said in his open letter. “Thousands of jobs were lost. Why would we trust the UAW with such an important site when they played a role in its prior closure?”

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“That plant is no longer a GM facility so we would not comment on someone else's business,” said GM spokeswoman Mary Ann Brown. She referred questions to the UAW.

“I don’t know everything that happened with the GM-Moraine assembly plant, but I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the UAW had nothing to do with that plant closing,” Rankin said.

“It was just bad times,” he added, noting that the nation was in a recession at the time of the GM-Moraine closure. “You know this, the Republicans were just dead-set against any assistance to the auto industry.”

UAW spokespeople also referred to two letters the union released last month, including one signed by more than 30 local politicians and officials, urging Fuyao leaders to work with a union should employees choose that route.

The UAW also referred this news outlet to an Oct. 16 letter from Sen. Sherrod Brown.

In that letter, Brown referred to his public comments at the company’s ribbon cutting ceremony in October 2016.

“Last year, when I spoke at the grand opening of this I expressed my support for your employees’ right to collectively bargain if they choose to do so, and how I trusted your company to respect your workers’ rights,” Brown said in that letter. “I urge you to take their concerns seriously. I truly believe that Fuyao Glass has a bright future in the greater Dayton area, but that success will be contingent on creating a safe and supportive work environment.”

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In a phone interview, Turner said it was “well-documented” that the UAW played a role in the closure of GM-Moraine.

“They were working against us,” Turner said of the UAW.

Jim Clark, president of the IUE-CWA, declined to comment Wednesday.

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