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January 8, 2013

Members to vote on union hall’s fate

Local 292 could be put up for sale

Active and retired members of UAW Local 292 will get to decide whether to put the local’s Alto Road location on the real estate market.

Local 292 President Matt Collins confirmed next Monday’s vote will determine whether the hall, once home to thousands of active members, will be sold.

An ad hoc finance committee already has recommended selling the union hall, and three meetings to discuss the local’s finances have been held with the membership, Collins said.

“We have less than 800 active members now; we used to have 10,000,” Collins said. “We only collect a small percentage of those dues, and the rest goes to the international. It’s more to right-size than anything else.”

Membership in the local, which represents hourly workers at General Motors Components Holdings’ Kokomo manufacturing operations, has been declining rapidly since the late 1990s, when General Motors spun off its parts operations under the Delphi banner.

After Delphi emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, the Kokomo operations were further consolidated, with GMCH purchasing the manufacturing operations and Delphi moving facilities out of buildings on the north side of Lincoln Road to a new building on the south side of Lincoln.

Collins said the reality is the union hall, built in the 1960s and expanded in the following decade, is expensive to maintain.

“It’s like the company. They have 1 million square feet sitting empty. I’m sure they’d love to be in a smaller space,” he said.

The hall’s monthly electric bill is around $4,000, he added.

Collins said the union has been “transparent” with membership about its financial struggles, and will abide by the membership’s decision.

“It doesn’t mean the local is going away, and in fact, we’re stronger now than we’ve been in the last couple of years,” he said.

If members vote to sell, union officials are planning to stay in the building until it’s sold, he said. The union would then purchase or lease a building somewhere else.

Members can stop by the hall, 1201 W. Alto Road, between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to vote.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.

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