Union Leader Says GM May Close Tenn. Plant

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- The president of the United Auto Workers local in Spring Hill said more than 2,100 jobs at the General Motors Corp. plant in Tennessee are in real jeopardy.

United Auto Workers Local 1853 President Mike O'Rourke said Thursday that in his opinion, the future of the jobs at the Chevrolet Traverse assembly plant is a "coin flip." GM is proposing to phase out 16 North American plants by 2011.

O'Rourke said he has been telling members to "pray for the best but plan for the worst."

Spring Hill GM plant spokeswoman Andrea Hales declined comment.

O'Rourke said Spring Hill could be endangered because it is not as close to suppliers as some plants in the Midwest. He said Spring Hill was put "at risk" when GM decreased its projected output of vehicles.

O'Rourke said he wrote in Local 1853's official newspaper that was sent to members by e-mail Thursday that Local 1853 leaders have been "led to believe that GM has added Spring Hill assembly to the closure list, to be closed by the end of the year." He declined to elaborate during a phone interview with The Associated Press.

The Spring Hill plant has a total of 3,200 employees. Most of the work force is assigned to assembling the Chevrolet Traverse crossover utility vehicle, while other build four-cylinder engines for other GM vehicles.

The automaker has received $15.4 billion in federal loans and faces a government-imposed June 1 deadline to either finish a major restructuring or be forced into bankruptcy protection.

The UAW made an agreement Thursday with GM and the federal government to cut labor costs, close factories and change the way retiree health care is funded. O'Rourke said he did not know any specifics about the agreement but was to attend a meeting Tuesday.

Of the 16 GM closings, two have been announced previously, an engine plant in Massena, N.Y., and a stamping plant in suburban Grand Rapids, Mich.

GM launched full-scale production of the Traverse, a new model, in October after overhauling the plant that was the first site for production of the Saturn brand.

The Traverse is an eight-seat crossover intended to appeal to drivers of large SUVs and trucks seeking better fuel economy.

GM already planned to shut down manufacture of the Traverse for five weeks starting June 8.

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