The leader of the UAW chapter that authorized a potential strike at the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant back in April has been fired by General Motors after 46 years as an employee.
Eldon Renaud, president of Bowling Green’s United Auto Workers Local 2164 for the past 32 years, had been leading the union’s recent concerns over safety and other issues at the Kentucky plant, where the highly popular seventh-generation Stingrays are being built.
Since the union authorized a potential strike by a 93 percent affirmative vote if the issues couldn’t be settled by negotiation three months ago, we haven’t heard much about the controversy.
Was there trouble brewing behind the scenes all this time, though? Was his firing today from General Motors a strike back against Renaud for his stand over those issues?
Of course, nobody from GM is talking publicly, using the old “we can’t talk about personnel matters” excuse.
But back in April, Renaud appeared to be letting the process take its course, apparently refusing to use the media as a pawn for the union. For example, he wasn’t specific in listing the safety concerns other than to say that “in an unsafe area you might have to go down into a pit or something like that. It’s just the safety procedures that are being followed,” he told WBKO.
And while the UAW said then that safety is the big issue inside the plant, Renauld said he believes the rank and file don’t have enough say in the matter over quality control.
“There’s some management practices going on. Maybe overriding the work of our inspectors saying, ‘Oh I think that one is good enough.’ We have to make sure that that stops. We don’t want management with punches to be able to punch something off that is our work. If we think it’s good enough then it’s good enough,” Renaud said in April.
Renaud had been the plant’s UAW president since 1982.
His firing today has left at least one plant worker upset.
“Whoever started this stuff with Mr. Eldon should be the same way. He should get the same treatment or whatever. And, if it’s all bull, Mr. Eldon needs to go back to work. That’s what’s wrong with this place. This place is built on people’s blood, sweat and tears from the UAW. The management doesn’t have the authority to run over us like they run over us,” Howard Weeks said.
Weeks said he thinks Renaud’s years of dedicated service to GM should have been considered.
“You know, the guy’s been at GM for 46 years and you’re just going to throw him at the door? Come on, man! This is America. It was built on hard workers. You know, it’s not a free ride for nobody.”
We just hope the firing doesn’t stop negotiations between the two sides and lead to a work stoppage at the plant.
In April, the union was quick to point out that holding the strike authorization vote was the first step in the process of negotiating with GM and doesn’t necessarily indicate that a walk-off is imminent. In addition to Local 2164 members approving a strike, it also must be approved by the regional and national UAW leaders before Corvette workers would actually walk off the job.
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