With demand soaring for the new mid-engine Corvette, you’d think unemployment benefits would be the last thing on the minds of Bowling Green Assembly Plant workers.
But four disruptions this year, including the current two-week shutdown because of parts shortages, have put those benefits squarely on the mind of the new president of the United Auto Workers Local 2164, which represents the Corvette plant’s hourly workers.
“My No. 1 goal is to help this membership with unemployment benefits,” Brian Ferrett told the Bowling Green Daily News shortly before being sworn in with other members of Local 2164’s executive board this week.
A backlog of unemployment claims being handled by Kentucky Career Center offices has frustrated workers at the Corvette plant, according to the new leader.
“Many of them are so frustrated that they don’t even want to file for unemployment now,” Ferrett says. “We do have supplemental pay through GM, but you have to either be receiving unemployment or have exhausted your benefits before you can receive that.”
Roadblocks have popped up in front of many Local 2164 members seeking benefits, according to shop chairman Jason Watson.
“Due to the continued temporary layoffs, we have a high number of people needing [unemployment] benefits for a week or two at a time,” Watson said. “There should be a channel for us to tap into to make the process easier.”
Incoming Local 2164 Vice President Joey Allen helped more than 600 UAW members with unemployment applications last week.
“It’s not just us; it’s the whole state dealing with it,” Allen says. “We’d like to get somebody to come in and train us on how to access the system. I’ve worked in two other states, and this system in Kentucky seems like it was set up to fail.”
Ferrett also has his eye on the long-term future of the Bowling Green plant, despite the addition of a second shift last year to handle the demand for the new C8 Corvette.
“I will do my darndest to get GM to invest in this area before I retire,” said Ferrett, who was working in Lordstown, Ohio when that plant closed in 2019. “GM says the future is in electric vehicles. I want those to be made in Bowling Green. I want GM to invest in future electric vehicles along with the gas-powered Corvettes.”
Another goal for Ferrett is to make the public more aware of Local 2164 in Bowling Green.
“The Corvette is the focal point of this community, but the plant isn’t,” he said. “I feel like we don’t have a presence in the community like plants up north have. Part of my platform was for the union to play a bigger role in the community with charities, schools and other things.”
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