Membership numbers tumble at UAW Local 95

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Jim Leute
Friday, May 3, 2013

— In terms of numbers, United Auto Workers Local 95 is a shadow of its former self.

With more than 7,100 members spread throughout a variety of area businesses in 2001, the local now represents just 321 at five area companies.

Long gone are the auto industry manufacturers and suppliers—General Motors, Lear Corp. and others—that for decades were the backbone of Local 95.

But the union still lives on at 1795 Lafayette Street in Janesville, where a skeleton staff opens the union hall for a handful of hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Last month, Local 95 got new leadership. Tim Silha and Ron Splan were elected by acclamation to serve as president and vice president. They will fill out the resigned terms of Mike Marcks and David Vaughn, respectively.

Silha and Splan both retired out of the Janesville GM plant, and—like their immediate predecessors—are donating their time to lead the union.

Essentially, the union still exists in Janesville for three primary purposes:

-- Representation of bargaining units at five area companies, including Blackhawk Community Credit Union, Parker Community Credit Union, Abitec Corp., Mercy Clinic East in Janesville and Weiler & Co. in Whitewater.

Organized employees there comprise the UAW Local 95's active membership, which, according to reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, totaled 321 in 2012.

-- Representation of retirees associated with bargaining units past and present. Union officials said last year that Local 95 represents more than 5,000 retirees.

-- Flying the flag for the vacant GM plant in Janesville.

The local plant has been in limbo since April 2009, when the automaker ended medium-duty production. Four months earlier, the majority of employees left the plant when GM stopped building full-size sport-utility vehicles.

Nearly 2,200 GM jobs—the vast majority of them Local 95-represented—were gone. So, too, were another 2,200 jobs at local GM suppliers, most of which had Local 95 representation.

GM lists the 4.1 million-square-foot plant that sits on 250 acres as being in standby status. It will continue to be listed as such at least through the current GM-UAW national contract, which expires in 2015.

“Future market conditions and our UAW-GM National Agreement will dictate what happens to the plant going forward,” GM spokesman Bill Grotz told The Gazette earlier this year. “The term 'standby' is synonymous with idle.”

Since the plant ended production four years ago, Local 95 leadership has worked with its regional UAW representatives, area politicians and local economic development officials to aggressively remind GM management that the plant is still here—and still available for any work the automaker wants to send its way.

Last updated: 10:40 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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