DETROIT — UAW Vice-President Terry Dittes is urging union members and their families not to purchase the Mexico-made Chevrolet Blazer, which began arriving in U.S. showrooms last month.
In a Jan. 4 letter to members, obtained by Automotive News, the leader of the union's UAW-General Motors Department, wrote he hoped "that not a single UAW member, family member ever purchase this vehicle unless it is made in the U.S.A. by our UAW members."
In an email to Automotive News, GM responded: "Several components in the Chevrolet Blazer are built in the U.S. at GM plants, supporting many UAW jobs. For example, the engines for the Blazer come from UAW-represented plants in Spring Hill, TN; Romulus, MI and Tonawanda, NY. There are also several other components in the Blazer from U.S. suppliers — supporting even more U.S. jobs. "
It's typical for the union to urge Americans, particularly its members, to buy U.S.-made vehicles. However, Dittes took it a step further by attacking GM for being "heartless" and only caring "about one thing: money."
The comments, which were first reported by WardsAuto, referred to the company's decision to potentially close up to four U.S. plants this year, while adding products such as the Blazer to Mexico.
"Recent news articles have stated GM is the largest producer of vehicles in Mexico. This comes at the same time four (4) of our U.S. plants are in jeopardy," Dittes wrote. "It is my opinion America is with us in this fight to build here what we sell here."
The UAW’s stance is similar to that of Canadian union Unifor, which represents about 2,600 autoworkers at GM’s Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant, also slated for closure at the end of 2019.
Unifor President Jerry Dias said GM’s decision to close North American plants has everything to do with “corporate greed.” Earlier this week, Dias stopped short of calling for a boycott of any GM product, but said “Canadians are pissed off" at the automaker.
Unifor suggested GM move Blazer production to Oshawa in order to save the plant, but the automaker rejected that idea Jan. 8.
GM has also said it would be "very costly" to move production of the Blazer from Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, to the U.S. It is being produced alongside the Chevrolet Equinox crossover and Chevrolet Cruze hatchback.
In November, GM announced it would end production at five North American plants — including Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Michigan — in 2019.
GM did not definitively say it would close the U.S. plants but rather that they would end production and not be given new vehicles to build. Powertrain plants in Warren, Mich., and Baltimore don't have products assigned after next year either. The Canadian plant is set for closure.
Overall, Dittes said it will be a "busy year" for the UAW, as the union negotiates new contracts with the Detroit automakers. The current four-year deals expire Sept. 13; however, it's common for negotiations to extend past the deadline.
Even without the potential plant closures, which GM must contractually negotiate with the UAW, it was expected to be a contentious round of collective bargaining between the union and automakers.