Arbitrator Rules for UAW in American Axle Dispute

March 28, 2010
Manufacturer is found to have violated labor contract by moving axle work to Mexico

An arbitrator has ruled that American Axle & Manufacturing violated its 2008 contract with the United Auto Workers union, and ordered the driveline systems and components manufacturer to provide restitution to the affected workers.

“This is a major victory for these workers, and we’re very gratified that the umpire upheld our strong outsourcing language reached in the 2008 agreements,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger stated.

The company has not commented on the ruling.

Labor arbitrator Paul Glendon cited American Axle for violating job-security clauses in the 2008 contract with the UAW. The contract was reached only after a three-month strike, which led to about 2,000 jobs being eliminated and work being consolidated at plants in Detroit and Three Rivers, MI.

After the 2008 contract went into effect, American Axle sought but failed to gain other concessions at its Detroit Manufacturing Complex, concerning its 8.25 axle production process. Ultimately, it reassigned much of that axle work to its Guanajuato Manufacturing Complex in Mexico. That move led to the UAW’s complaint.

American Axle claimed it had broad discretion about what to produce, and where and when to produce it. The UAW maintained that sourcing commitments it negotiated in 2008 guaranteed the work to the Detroit Manufacturing Complex, and prohibited the company from relocating it.

“Our American Axle members went on strike for three months in part to win this measure of job security,” Gettelfinger said in a statement about the arbitrator’s ruling.

Glendon ordered American Axle and the union to determine how to provide restitution to the Detroit workers, but will resolve any disputes that result in that process.

"We will be working hard to ensure that every UAW member at the Detroit Axle plant affected by this decision gets everything they are entitled to, including back wages, other benefits and recall from layoff,” stated UAW vice president Jimmy Settles, who manages the union’s relations with American Axle.