Former GM vice president of industrial relations dies at 87 image

Alfred S. Warren Jr., the former General Motors vice president of industrial relations, has died at his home in Grosse Pointe late last week.

Warren came to GM in 1955 as a teacher and conference leader at the General Motors Institute in Flint. Through the 1960s and 1970s, he oversaw manufacturing facilities in Flint; Warren, Ohio; Buffalo; Cleveland, and St. Louis.

He was then promoted in 1980 to vice president for industrial relations, where Warren had labor contract talks with the UAW in 1982, 1984, 1987 and 1990. Together with then-UAW Vice President Don Ephlin, he helped setting up the first UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

Warren, Ephlin and others were among the key executives that developed the Saturn brand in the 1980s. The Saturn facility in Spring Hill, Tenn., was GM’s take on fighting the growing dominance of Japanese manufacturers on the U.S. auto market.

During the UAW negotiations in 1984, Warren signed off on the creation of the so called “employee-development bank” – a concept later known as the Jobs Bank – that was meant to help train or find jobs for senior UAW employees who would “otherwise be permanently laid off” because of better, new technology or higher productivity. The practice was among the causes that drove GM’s costs higher, as it meant the company would go on paying people who weren’t plant workers anymore or held on to facilities that churned out more cars than the market would absorb.