DETROIT - The future of the Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio has been a friction point between General Motors and the UAW even before negotiations began this summer for a new contract and could have bearing on whether GM autoworkers are willing to ratify the proposed deal.

About 40 to 50 UAW members gathered outside Detroit's Renaissance Center ahead of the UAW National GM Council meeting as well as inside the Marriott hotel where the meeting was held chanting "no product no vote."

As UAW leaders Gary Jones and Terry Dittes descended the escalator to enter the ballroom ahead of the meeting, the protesters again shouted: "No product, no vote" and "Stop giving our jobs to Mexico!"

Reports on Lordstown's fate conflicted after the union and GM reached a proposed tentative agreement, with the Wall Street Journal saying the automaker would invest, with partners, $1.3 billion near the idled factory and other accounts saying Lordstown was left out of the pact. The Journal report squares with Free Press reporting on a battery plant planned near the factory while GM works to sell the plant to an enterprise linked to electric truck maker Workhorse Group of suburban Cincinnati.

Justin Brown drove from Wentzville, Mo., to Detroit to participate in the protest. He worked 11 years at Lordstown before transferring to GM's plan in Wentzville five months ago.

"I left my home and everything there in Lordstown," said Brown. "If there's nothing in this contract for Lordstown, my vote is no. If they won't give it to us now then I don't think we should settle the contract."

Likewise, Tommy Wolikow said, "if they just throw Lordstown away, it'll be a no for me."

Wolikow works at Flint assembly, but he spent years working at Lordstown. He said if the 46,000 members are "true union brothers and sisters and know the meaning of solidarity, they'll stick with us" and reject the proposed tentative contract.

"If there's no product for Lordstown, my vote is no," said William Goodchild, a laid-off Lordstown worker who came to GM's headquarters to make sure UAW leaders know the Lordstown issue matters.

Goodchild, Wolikow, Brown and others at the rally said they are ready to stay on strike longer if need be to get a product for Lordstown. But Wolikow worries that some union members will see "the big carrot" GM has offered in the form of a ratification bonus of at least $9,000 and "be bought out" to ratify a tentative contract if the National GM Council recommends ratification.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, who retired as a tool and die maker from Delphi Packard Electric Systems in 2004, said he had not been briefed by General Motors as of 10 a.m. Thursday.

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"I haven't had a heads up on anything," Hill said. "I'm sure with GM their priority now is to get an agreement with the UAW."

Right now, he said, much of the speculation is focusing on a scenario where the Workhorse buys the factory. The belief, he said, is that no product has been allocated by GM to Lordstown but nothing has been confirmed.

GM in November 2018 angered the UAW when it announced plans to idle four U.S. plants, including Lordstown, which shut down earlier this year when production of the small Chevrolet Cruze ended.

Known provisions of the proposed tentative agreement include:

- UAW-represented GM workers will get a bonus of more than $9,000 upon ratification of the deal.

- GM will invest in U.S. facilities to create and retain 9,000 jobs.

- 3-4% wage and lump sum increases in alternating years.

- As part of that investment, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant will be retooled to build an electric pickup.

- Temporary workers, who have been paid $15-19 an hour with inferior benefits to permanent autoworkers, get a path to a permanent role.

- Newer union workers with two weeks' vacation a year will get to take one of those weeks at their choosing. In the previous contract, these employees were required to take both paid vacation weeks during scheduled plant shutdowns. The second week of a plant shutdown would be considered a layoff, qualifying workers for unemployment.

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