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Union ratifies GM contract

November 18, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Members of United Auto Workers Local 1590 ratified an agreement with General Motors Thursday that the union president says could save the car maker's parts distribution center in Berkeley County.

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After a full day of voting at the Comfort Inn on Edwin Miller Boulevard, 80 percent of the local UAW members ratified the agreement, according to Jim Rogers, president of Local 1590.

Rogers said he could not divulge terms of the agreement, but said the vote was a "big step" toward saving the Martinsburg parts distribution center.

"It's a good night we feel for the UAW 1590 and the community of Martinsburg," Rogers said after tallying the votes Thursday night.

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There is another development that is expected to be made public soon regarding the local GM plant, Berkeley County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said Thursday night.

General Motors and the Berkeley County Development Authority have been working on a plan for the plant, but details of the project cannot be released yet, Dunham said.

An announcement might be made during the meeting of the County Commissioners on Dec. 2, Dunham said.

"We are hopeful that this agreement will result in a decision very soon by General Motors to retain employment in Martinsburg. Our members, along with local, state and federal officials, have worked very hard to convince GM that it would be in their best interest to maintain employment here," Ed Lambert, chairman of the shop committee of Local 1590, said in a prepared statement.

GM officials could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

On Wednesday, GM spokeswoman Jill Witzenburg said the car maker and the union would release a joint statement after the union vote.

Rogers said Thursday there will not be a joint statement.

The union released its own statement Thursday after the vote.

"Whatever the company releases is up to them," Rogers said.

Earlier this year, state and federal government officials feared the GM plant, which employs about 630 people, might close.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., tried to convince GM to stay in the area, saying its presence is vital to the local economy.

Rockefeller, Wise and Byrd met with GM officials on March 22 and said they left the meeting feeling optimistic about the plant.

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