A high-profile piece of real estate in the very center of downtown Detroit, the old Veterans Memorial Building, could go on the auction block, pending the outcome of the negotiations with the United Auto Workers.
The UAW won’t begin the final phase of contract talks with the Ford Motor Co. or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. until its tentative agreement with General Motors Co. is ratified or even rejected. But the pattern is now established and the pattern includes the restructuring of the joint programs and the sale of key properties that have been part of programs.
The tentative GM agreement calls for the sales of an expensive piece of real estate that has served as the headquarter for UAW-GM joint programs. The 10-story Veteran Memorial Building has been used by the UAW-Ford building by UAW Ford since 1995 and UAW-acquired the building $7.3 million. The deal including the city forgiving a $1.3 million unpaid rent.
The distinctive building erected in the late 1940s, when Detroit was perhaps the richest city in the United States between New York and Los Angeles, contains a 450-seat theater-style conference room and a 200-seat lecture hall, both on the ground level.
Given the UAW’s traditional insistence on pattern bargaining, it is very likely Ford is also prepared to approve the sale of the headquarters of UAW-Ford joint programs, which sits on Jefferson Avenue next to the Detroit’s Convention Center, particularly since it likely to produce a windfall.
Even if the UAW objects, pattern bargaining means that key parts of the union’s contract with Detroit’s automakers are consistent. Reform of the joint programs, which are part of all three contracts, certainly qualify as a central part of any new agreement.
In addition, setting aside reforms of the joint programs would open Ford’s management to charges to doing favors for the UAW’s international executive board, which has been badly tarnished by scandal.
The scandal, which has centered on abuse of the joint training funds, has already resulted in jail sentences for nine individuals, including one former UAW vice president. A tenth target of the investigation, Jeff Pietzryk, a former UAW staff member who oversaw the union’s joint programs with GM, has pled guilty to charges of money laundering and wire fraud that began with kickbacks from vendors used by the joint programs at GM.
Another union officer, Vance Pearson, has been suspended from the UAW’s top executive board because he has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on charges of stealing due money from the union. Joe Ashton, a former UAW vice president, has been implicated, though not named directly in the crimes to which Pietzyrk has pleaded guilty.
Pearson was a close ally of Doug Jones, the UAW’s current president, who has kept a low profile, remaining out of sight during the negotiations and strike with General Motors after FBI agents found $30,000 in cash in his garage, according to court documents.
Nevertheless, Jones wound up discussing the tentative agreement with GM and President Donald Trump. UAW officials confirmed Jones and Trump had spoken. Details of the conversation about the contract were not released.
Trump also spoke with GM chairman Mary Barra, GM officials confirmed.
The tentative contract clears the way for the closure of GM assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio – an issue in which Trump taken great interest since the plant is located in politically sensitive Trumbull County in northeastern Ohio.
The tentative agreement, however, will allow for the possible re-use of Lordstown plant by a start-up company and the construction of a new battery plant in the area around Lordstown.
Meanwhile, critics of the tentative agreement within the union are pointing to comments GM chief financial officer, Dhivya Suradevara as a reason to vote no on the contract since GM will not honor any job security commitments
“With plans to reshape its vehicle line-up, cut its workforce, shut down several plants and invest heavily in electric production, General Motors us transforming its business model for the future. We will be taking deliberately tough decisions that we need to take to position our company for success,” she said at an industry conference the day the UAW’s GM Council endorsed the contract for ratification.
Suradevara’s comments were reposted on via Facebook by UAW members urging GM’s striking workers to vote down the agreement.