UAW contract choices at New Process Gear

Much is made of having choices in life. But, having a choice is not always good. A good choice is this: would you like cherry or blueberry pie? A bad choice would be: would you like to die by hanging or firing squad? For many years the workers at New Venture Gear had plenty of dessert. Sweet deals that enriched their families, their lifestyle and the community. But, now the funeral dirge is being heard ever closer and any choice the union membership makes seems to take them down the same path - the likely closure of a manufacturing fixture in Central New York.

The United Auto Workers are now more than six hours into a 24 hour voting period. The members are deciding whether to ratify a new agreement between the union and Magna International. Union leadership issued a two page document outlining the details of the contractual offer. It was highly unusual in nature because it repeatedly refers to the possibility of the plant closing, and this is a sheet recommending the union accept the deal.

The union leadership and plant management both say the plant will close if this agreement is not ratified. They also say the plant could close if the contract is ratified and New Process Gear is not breaking even on operational costs by this summer. They also say the plant could close if the contract is ratified, the plant breaks even this summer, but cannot sustain that financial stability. It seems virtually every likely scenario leads to the plant closing.

That's where the decisions become difficult for union members. The economic conditions make it nearly impossible for the plant to break even. Even with massive cost cuts the necessary increase in the revenue stream will only come with a revitalization of the auto industry. No one thinks that will happen in just four or five months. So an approved contract may sustain jobs for a few more months, but the end result is the same.

In the absence of a good choice for the group self interest takes precedence. Each member must weigh the financial facts and decide whether a new deal or the current deal will provide more money to his or her family in the short term. The new contract includes bonuses for saying yes and continuing with New Process Gear. The new contract also includes bonuses for saying yes and leaving New Process Gear.

This is not a choice like: would you like cherry or blueberry pie? What once was a shining star of the dwindling manufacturing sector in Central New York is on its last legs. New Process Gear is heading for the gallows. A new contract may delay the execution, but a pardon seems virtually out of the question.

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