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Impact of GM Strike Spreads Beyond Auto Plants

March 12, 1996 GMT

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ In the shadow of an idled GM truck plant Tuesday, restaurant owner Jay Harbin surveyed the empty seats.

``It kills our lunch business,″ he complained.

The 8-day-old strike at two General Motors Corp. brake factories has shut down more than half the giant automaker’s assembly plants, slowed or closed 15 percent of its parts plants, and is causing ripples that are being felt from the contractors to the coffee shops.

Harbin’s restaurant is next to GM’s truck assembly plant in suburban Moraine, which sent its 4,000 workers home Saturday because of the strike.


The restaurant is usually filled with GM workers at lunchtime.

``I don’t like it,″ Harbin said. ``When you’ve got two people sitting in the bar, how can you be happy?″

About 81,500 GM workers have been idled as a result of the strike by 2,700 brake workers at two Delphi Chassis brake plants.

By Tuesday, GM had been forced to shut down 19 of 29 North American assembly plants and nine parts plants. Work at another 24 of the roughly 200 GM parts plants in North America had been scaled back, with some workers being sent home.

Negotiators agreed to meet for talks late Tuesday for the first time in several days.

``The union requested the meeting,″ said Delphi Chassis spokesman Jim Hagedon.

Calls to United Auto Workers Local 696, which represents the striking workers, were not returned.

The strike also threatened to affect independent businesses that sell vehicle parts to GM.

There are more than 1,600 parts makers that deal directly with GM. They have more than 3,000 manufacturing facilities, with 1.1 million employees, according to ELM International, an auto-supplier consultant.

For instance, VarityKelsey-Hayes expects the strike to affect the 230 workers who make anti-lock brakes for GM at a plant in Fowlerville, Mich., VarityKelsey-Hayes spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said.

And a vice president of a western Michigan-based supplier that sells parts to GM, who asked that his company not be identified, said he expected to lay off several hundred people at three plants as a result of the GM strike.

``We’re all paying for those 3,000 people to be out on strike,″ said the executive.

Not all of the non-striking workers were upset about their fate.


Dee Byers, a production line worker at a GM assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., said she was upset about the outsourcing, the production of parts by outside plants or companies.

``I think that because of all the outsourcing that they’ve done it’s about time that we stand up and say it’s enough,″ she said. ``We need to fight for our jobs.″

The strike won’t effect the nation’s economy as a whole unless it continues into next month, said Paul Ballew, chief economist for J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing information firm. GM, the world’s largest automaker, earned $6.9 billion last year.

And a short strike really won’t hurt GM because it should be able to make up most of the lost production, Ballew and other analysts said.

But striker Paul Hatfield said the work stoppage could hurt GM by depleting the company’s inventory of its faster-selling vehicles such as Saturns, Cavaliers, Tahoes and Yukons.

``If we’re shut down, they’re going to lose that market share,″ said Hatfield, 49, of Carlisle, Ohio.

According to Ward’s Automotive Reports, GM had an 82-day supply of cars at the end of February and a 79-day supply of trucks. Generally, a 60-day supply is considered ideal.

But for some GM models, such as large sport-utility vehicles and the fast-selling Saturns, inventories were already tight. The supply of Saturns at the end of February was 49 days and that of GMC Yukons only 26 days, according to Ward’s.