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Delphi Vote Could Shutter Columbus Plant

The 450 unionized workers at the Columbus Delphi plant were eligible to vote this afternoon on a contract that might cost them their jobs.

At one time, the Delphi plant on Georgesville Road employed more than 5-thousand people. Now the workforce at west Columbus facility is below 500. All but 23 employees took buy-outs or early retirement last year. The company hired a so-called supplementary workforce with a starting salary around $14 dollars an hour. A significant decrease from the $28-dollars-an-hour the company paid before it went bankrupt. On his way into the union hall to cast what could be his final vote, supplemental worker Brian Brown wore a special t-shirt.

"It says 'First Annual Kick to the Curb.' It has to do with last year's buyout," Brown says. "And now I need a second t-shirt: 'UAW: Unwanted Auto Worker.'"

Jim Harman is the United Auto Workers Local 969 shop chairman at Delphi. A worker passing by told Harman it was hard to cast a vote that would put him out of a job. But Harman says this latest Delphi offer was hard fought and he expects it to pass.

"The reason we feel like we have all that we can get in this contract negotiation is that we could have crippled GM," Harman says. We supply 80% of their parts. And they've stepped up to avoid this strike and made this reasonable offer. And we're going to accept it, I do believe."

If the labor proposal does pass, workers could take a $25,000 offer to relocate to another Delphi plant that's not being closed. Or they could take a cash settlement or what's known as sub-pay. Even though he called it a win-win agreement, Harman lamented the impact passage would have.

"The United States' economy has been built basically on manufacturing. And when this plant was built in the 40s this land was nothing but country. Now look at it. There was a mall built; now it's vacant. This whole community was built based on this plant. At one point we employed 5500 people and put a lot of money in the West Side economy," Harman says.

Just east of the plant, the head of a GM dealership also says he wonders what globalization means for the U.S. economy's future. Chris Haydocy is president of Haydocy Automotive.

"Globalization may be great for a lot of the world but the fact of the matter is this is the first time ever that our kids won't have the same potential that we do. Ohio being number one in bankruptcies, number one in foreclosures, number one in job loss is feeling the pain in this new world order. And for the community on the West Side, I don't necessarily think it's a good thing.

The membership at all Delphi facilities is voting this week on the proposal.