GM Strike hurts Marada


WESTMINSTER -- The Economic ripples of a strike by 3,200 Auto Workers has had a dramatic impact on Marada Industries Inc., a GM parts supplier to the now-idle General Motors Corp. Broening Highway minivan assembly plant in Baltimore.

Marada produces steel structural components that go into the GM van, and its big factory was nearly vacant last week.

Only one of its four giant metal press machines was operating. The roll mill line, which would normally be a clatter of activity as it banged out a bumper every five or six seconds, was sitting idle. A line of robotic welding machines was also dark and motionless.

John Kemper, an employee who normally would be operating the mill, was strolling about Wednesday morning with a plastic spray bottle of cleaning fluid and a rag, washing down the hand railing around the mill.

Dan L. Quickel, Marada's assistant general manager, said that about 60 percent of the plant's 190 workers were on vacation because there was not enough work to keep them busy.

Marada is one of a number of area GM suppliers caught up in the labor dispute of Baltimore's largest manufacturing company.

As part of a $270 million renovation of its aged Baltimore plant in the early 1980s, GM adopted a just-in-time inventory system. It has companies such as Marada sending parts to the Southeast Baltimore plant Just as they are needed for the assembly line.

While this reduces the amount of money GM has tied up in inventory at its assembly plants across the country, it puts suppliers in the precarious position of feeling the impact of a work stoppage almost immediately.

On Friday, June 21, Marada officials had to decide whether to order another shipment of steel for delivery over the weekend or wait until June 24, the date that Local 239 of the United Auto Workers Union had set for a walkout if an agreement could not be reached.

Marada ordered the steel and the big rolls, about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, are still piled up at the plant. Workers are wiping them down with a light oil to keep them from rusting in the humid weather. Any rust, Quickel said, would result in the costly process of trucking the metal to a plant in Baltimore for a "pickling" or derusting process that would make it usable again.

When production is proceeding on a normal schedule, Quickel said, rolls of steel that arrive at the Marada plant in the morning are made into bumpers and are being installed on the vans in Baltimore that same evening.

"We think we can make it through the end of July with no layoffs," Quickel said. "But we sure hope this strike ends soon.

The United Auto Workers at the GM plant went on strike June 24. The union claims that employees are being overworked as a result of the company's decision in February to eliminate about 400 Jobs, and that this is showing up in increased injuries at the plant.

The company challenged the union's claim, saying there has been only a slight increase in work-related injuries during the first five months of this year compared to the same period of 1990.

The two sides have been meeting on a daily basis with little to report last week. After Wednesday's talks, the United Auto Workers local president, Rodney A. Trump, reported slight progress.

Although he says he is concerned, Gov. William Donald Schaefer will not say whether he will intervene in the strike, such as by becoming a mediator. He urged union and management to work hard for an agreement.

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