GM's bankruptcy was structured as something called a 363 sale, in which you create a new company which buys the assets you want the reorganized firm to keep, and leave the remaining assets in the old company, which then tries to sell them for whatever they're worth and gives creditors the money. Needless to say, the assets left inside the old company are often not as valuable as the ones the company keeps--they may have little value at all. So when "Old GM" found a buyer for its Indianapolis stamping plant, that was a happy piece of news; if it's not sold, the plant will be shut down in September of next year.
Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy. The new buyer, JD Norman, says it can't afford prevailing GM wage rates, and wants the local to agree to lower pay scales
. Thanks to "successor clauses" in the contract, the local has to agree to reopen the contract; otherwise, the successor has to abide by the UAW contract. JD Norman says it will not buy the plant if the successor clause is in effect.
A faction within the union consists of what are known as "GM Gypsies"--workers who have transferred to this plant from other GM plants that were shut down. They're trying to put in enough time to retire on full benefits, which means they don't want to take permanent jobs at JD Norman; they feel that unless they can get something very close to what GM pays, they seem to think they're better off with a plant shutdown
, which makes everyone eligible for transfer.
However, there are workers in the plant who don't want to transfer. Indianapolis is their home. They're angry at the gypsies for trying to shut down a plant that is good for the local community, and good for them. I've heard that these folks are disproportionately close to retirement, in which case they're eligible to take their GM pension, and then go to work for JD Norman at reduced wages.
As you can see from the link above, JD Norman is taking it's case to the web, hoping to persuade workers that they'll be better off if they agree to a new contract. But though the company is making hopeful noises, other observers seem skeptical. The gypsies may win the day, in which case everyone else is out of a job that would still have paid pretty well.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down