Union/Management Cooperation Praised at Tonawanda G.M. Plant

September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 27, 2010 at 6:48 PM EDT

By Ginger Geoffery

September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 27, 2010 at 6:48 PM EDT

Just a year ago the future of General Motors and the company's Tonawanda engine plant were very much in doubt. At that time management at the plant and union leaders decided they would work together to find ways to make their plant shine in the eyes of corporate G.M. in Detroit in an effort to save jobs in Tonawanda.

"We have a unique relationship here and what we do here is we negotiate but we look at what's good for our community what's good for our plant and that's the key to our success," says Bob Coleman, shop chairman of United Auto Workers Local 774.

"It's not because there aren't disagreement or aren't problems I think the working relationship comes because we have a mutual understanding of what the benefits are for our people, and it's not his people or my people, it's all of us," explains Steve Finch, Tonawanda G.M. Plant Manager.

The good working relationship was born out of necessity last year. Working together seemed the only way to save the remaining jobs at the Tonawanda facility. "Usually a union will go out on the floor and bang our chests and say 'here's what we're not going to do and here's what we'll tell them'. Well, guess what? That's not working. They'll close our plant. We all see that," says Coleman.

The union and management agreed to several things to make the plant more efficient including adjusting some work shifts.
"The alternative work schedule -- Our workforce here is on Monday through Thursday, ten hours a day," says Coleman.

"That extra shift was a really tough one but it's really helped us," says Erie Von Recklinghausen who works at the Tonawanda plant.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins spoke to plant workers during Tuesday's expansion announcement. "I wish that in some cases the municipal unions would understand how this cooperation we see in the private sector has resulted in what we see today," said Collins to the crowd. His comments drew a few boos from union members. Local U.A.W. leaders say their situation in Tonawanda is unique and they're not necessarily an example for other unions to follow. They're happy with their result in Tonawanda because it saved jobs and is now bringing more.

"I feel we did not give up anything," says Coleman, "What we did is we gave our workers what we need -- life."