Josee Valcourt / The Detroit News
A group of Chrysler workers from Toledo who wanted to buy the company through an employee stock plan will launch a four-day protest against Chrysler's pending sale to Cerberus Capital Management LP at the automaker's Auburn Hills headquarters, beginning Monday morning.
The mainly blue-collar group of about 25 autoworkers who call themselves the Chrysler Employee Buyout Committee is also considering filing a lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler AG and its investment bank, JP Morgan Chase, because they say they were shut out of the bidding process.
The workers, led by Michele Mauder, a production worker at the Toledo Jeep Wrangler plant, believe DaimlerChrysler didn't take seriously their proposal that called for an employee stock ownership plan.
Dan Mangru, a recently appointed spokesman for the Toledo group, said the workers' bid was higher than Cerberus' offer, but he could not provide a dollar amount.
On May 14, Daimler announced that it reached a deal to sell an 80 percent stake for $7.4 billion to private equity firm Cerberus.
The protest that begins Monday and continues through Thursday is expected to draw about 1,000 workers "from all across the country," said Dan Mangru, a recently appointed spokesman for the Toledo's group. "They're looking to tell Chrysler that they have a powerful message. They want everybody to join in. The more powerful this movement gets, the more Chrysler has to listen."
Chrysler spokesman Jason Vines dismisses the group's complaints about the bidding process for the automaker.
"We had an orderly process for this and if you followed the orderly process, you were involved," Vines said. "And if you couldn't follow, you weren't involved."
He said Chrysler's pending sale is a big deal for all employees, including senior managers. The group's reason for protesting appears "misguided,' he said, particularly since the Toledo plant is building a slew of new products.
"This is a tough business right now and I'd rather have them build great (Dodge) Nitros, Wranglers and (Jeep) Liberties instead of drawing a really clever sign."
Not all Chrysler workers are supporting the protest or the workers' cause.
Rob Charette, who also works at the Toledo plant, said he doesn't think an ESOP would work for a company the size of Chrysler, which employs 80,000 blue- and white-collar workers.
He also isn't suspicious of Cerberus' business intention in spite of naysayers, who fear the private equity firm will eventually break up the automaker and sell it in parts for a quick return.
"They'll be lucky to get 100 people there," Charette said. "I don't see that having any steam whatsoever."