UAW, expert says AM General plan to sell St. Joseph County plant saves jobs

AM General commercial assembly plant in St. Joseph County // CBS Photo

Preserving American auto jobs is part of a big announcement tonight from A.M. General.

A China-owned company will acquire the St. Joseph County commercial assembly plant.

Reuters reports the deal is worth $100 million. This could save more than 400 jobs.

WSBT 22 was told employees inside of the commercial assembly plant found out about the deal Thursday morning. The chairman of United Auto Workers Local 5 says the new company, SF Motors, is honoring the current employee contracts.

He says there is "no guarantee" all employees will keep their jobs when that expires, but he's encouraging them to stay positive and hopeful.

Don Brady oversees UAW Local 5, representing hundreds of employees at AM General's commercial assembly plant.

In the past, he says the company has had a hard time locking in long-term work at the plant.

“Right now, we are running the Mercedes vehicle. That was over a two-year contract. Basically, when the Mercedes runs out there is no work. With this new company purchasing the CAP facility it kind of gives some hope to the employees,” Brady said.

SF Motors is a Chinese-owned company that focuses on auto and engine manufacturing.

Company leaders say this deal will allow SF Motors to grow its electric vehicle business at AM General while adding $30 million in upgrades to the commercial assembly plant.

Brady says employees will learn new skills.

"We've got a great workforce here. I think we prove ourselves by building the Mercedes-Benz. That was a hard vehicle to build, but our employees have been successful at doing it, and like I said, we can build anything," Brady said.

Jeffrey Bergstrand with Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business says the move is saving jobs.

"If you have any investor, whether that investor is from Texas or California or from China, they are preserving the financial capital in that firm and keeping those jobs afloat for the foreseeable future," Bergstrand said.

Bergstrand says more companies across the world are making big foreign investments.

"In our increasingly global economy, that difference matters less and less because whether it is a domestic firm or a foreign firm coming here, they are regulated by the standards of the host country, and that's the United States, and that's what ultimately protects workers’ rights,” Bergstrand said.

Right now, the commercial plant makes about 60 Mercedes Benz a day for the Chinese market.

The UAW chair says that work will continue through October of this year.

The sale is expected to close later this year and is subject to U.S. and Chinese regulatory approvals.

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Indiana 2nd) issued a statement on the deal.

"Today's announcement is positive news for our community and proof that the Hoosier workforce is second to none. This investment in South Bend and Mishawaka will keep hundreds of auto worker jobs here and further solidify northern Indiana's position at the forefront of American manufacturing and innovation," she said.

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