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Latest News - May 2011

May 12, 2011
Arlington car-seat maker Lear sending more work to Mexico
Source: Star-Telegram
By: Bob Cox

Lear Corp. plans to move more work from its Arlington automotive seat manufacturing plant to Mexico, according to a United Auto Workers union official.

Lear officials have told local union leaders that as early as June the company will move work now done by 52 employees to one of its Mexican manufacturing facilities. It would be the second time in less than a year that Lear has shifted work from the Arlington facility, which produces seats for the sport utility vehicles built at General Motors' Arlington assembly plant.

Lear officials could not be reached for comment. An office employee at the Arlington plant referred queries to the company's Southfield, Mich., headquarters, but a call to the corporate communications department was not returned.

Union leaders say they're willing to work with the company to find ways to make the Arlington plant more efficient and profitable.

"We think there are better ways to run this business so we all can benefit. We want them to be profitable," said Maverick Gayden, shop chairman of UAW Local 129, which represents production workers at the plant.

Last summer, Lear officials, moved some seat frame manufacturing work to Mexico, saying then that they needed to make room on the production line. The company said no jobs would be lost in Arlington.

But Gayden said the number of UAW-represented employees has since dropped by about 50, to 565. Lear has not replaced employees who retired, quit or were terminated, and "they've been very aggressive about terminations since then," Gayden said.

The company has not said anything this time about keeping workers who would be affected if it moves additional work out of Arlington. "Somebody would have to lose their job," Gayden said.

The company's contract with the UAW calls for "reasonable conversation" with the union about any plans for outsourcing, Gayden said, and the union has asked for details about the company's concerns and costs so it can make a proposal.

Gayden said the union has gone so far as to scout a possible site in Arlington where Lear could move its operations from the cramped Bardin Road facility into larger, more efficient quarters. "Since we don't have details, we've gone ahead with a plan to present to them."

Union officials have also taken their campaign to save Arlington jobs to the city, speaking to Mayor Robert Cluck and economic development manager Bruce Payne.

Lear, following in the footsteps of GM and Chrysler, was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. The company, a global provider of seats and electrical components to the auto industry, earned $438 million last year on sales of $12 billion.

Gayden says Lear benefited indirectly from the U.S. government-backed bankruptcies and bailouts of GM and Chrysler, as well as from the Cash for Clunkers program.

Both were intended to save hundreds of thousands of U.S. auto industry jobs.

"The taxpayers' money was used to save American jobs," he said. "It's an insult to those taxpayers when we move jobs out of the country."

Lear and the UAW agreed to a new three-year contract covering the Arlington plant in June 2009, following a lockout by the company. The contract froze workers' wages and required them to bear a larger share of healthcare costs.



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