UAW hall in Kokomo, Ind., destroyed by tornado

UAW hall in Kokomo, Ind., destroyed by tornado
Sean Gagnier
Automotive News | November 19, 2013 – 1:15 pm EST

The UAW Local 685 hall in Kokomo, Ind., was in the cross hairs of a tornado that ripped through the area on Sunday.

“It was completely destroyed. It was a brick and masonry building and I think it could have even been a shelter, and it was destroyed,” Ken Lortz, the UAW’s regional director, told Automotive News today. “It’s a total loss. There are members there trying to salvage what they can, but it’s tough.

“One of the members had UAW memorabilia dating back to the founding of the union; we called it a museum and it could all just be gone. Beyond the hall, there were at least 50 homes in the area that were destroyed. The second floor of one was lying in the street in front of the hall.”

There are three UAW locals in the Kokomo area: 1166, 292 and 685, which is the largest. Local 685 represents about 4,200 workers at the nearby Chrysler transmission plant, which did not sustain any damage. Local 1166 represents workers at a Chrysler casting plant and Local 292 represents Delphi workers. None of those operations reported damage.

Lortz said the Local 292 hall was damaged when a tree fell on the building and broke the back wall, but he says the union is still using the building. He said the 1166 hall did not sustain any damage.

“The three chapters work together in the area and I think the plan is to relocate 685 into 1166 during cleanup and rebuilding, but they will rebuild,” Lortz said.

A video posted by Local 685 member Mike Rankert shows union members inside what is left of the building, trying to assess the damage and salvage anything they can.

The video ends with a statement from Local 685 President Rich Boruff, saying, “We will rebuild our home; you have my word on that.”

Local 685 President Rich Boruff to his members: “We will rebuild our home; you have my word on that.”

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